This post is sponsored by The National Watermelon Board. However, all opinions, ideas and enthusiasm are completely my own.
Almost six years ago, I started experimenting with making my own edible race fuel. There weren’t as many options on the market back then, and I also liked the control I had over ingredients and flavor when making energy gels, jellies and chews from scratch – not to mention saving a ton of money.
Today I’m sharing my recipe for Watermelon Beet & Chia Energy Blocks that are surprisingly easy to make and take advantage of the inherent health and performance benefits of the featured ingredients. Read on to get the recipe, nutrition info and details on how you can use these chews in your next marathon, triathlon, obstacle race or other endurance event.
Why watermelon? Well, any chance I have to incorporate watermelon in my training diet and race-day fuel, I’ll jump on. I’ve blogged about the wonders of watermelon so many times, it’s my favorite fruit ever! Obviously, watermelon is hydrating and ripe with natural sugars to provide quick energy, but watermelon has loads of lycopene and provides potassium, which can help keep muscle cramps away. And, some studies suggest the amino acid L-citrulline found in watermelon may help optimize performance and reduce post-workout soreness. Plus, just so darn delicious.
Since ripe watermelons are getting harder to find in these fall and upcoming winter season, bottled watermelon juice is a great option, especially for this race fuel recipe. Just read the label to ensure you’re getting 100% juice, and not a cocktail of other juices or liquids. If you want to make your own watermelon juice, just add cubes of the fruit to a blender and hit the button, no need to strain.
I’ve also added a bit of beet juice powder to the recipe, as various studies suggest that supplementation with beetroot juice can improve cardiorespitory endurance in athletes by bringing more oxygen to the blood, thusly increasing efficiency and time to exhaustion. Truth is, I don’t love beets the way I adore watermelon, but have added a small enough amount of the powder (you really don’t need much) to avoid that distinctive earthy, beet taste.
Now, don’t freak out, in addition to the inherent, natural sugars in the watermelon juice, there is also REAL, actual sugar in this recipe. Like the kind you might often try to avoid. Running a marathon or competing in another endurance event is no time to boycott sugar – your body needs quickly sourced carbohydrates to put the pedal to the medal and steer clear of a “bonk.” In this recipe I’ve used a combo of dry sugar and a liquid sugar. For the dry sugar, use white table sugar, cane sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar or whatever you prefer (but NOT low cal or zero-cal substitutes). For the liquid sugar, use honey, agave, molasses or maple syrup . . . although these last two may distract from the watermelon taste. For the record, I used cane sugar and honey.
Did you know? Studies also suggest that exercising muscles can absorb a combination of fructose and glucose almost 40% faster than glucose alone. Sugar composition in watermelon, as in all cucurbit fruits, includes sucrose, fructose and glucose
When I’m out racing a long event, I aim to take in about 100 to 150 calories per hour primarily from carbohydrates. Each one of my Watermelon Beet Chia Shot Bocks has about 27 calories and 7g carb – so would eat about 4 or 5 every hour. Because they’re made with pectin and don’t need refrigeration, they are easy to stick in a backpack or running belt. I hope you love these as much as me!
On October 22nd, my friends at the National Watermelon Promotion Board (Watermelon.org) are going to be once again out at the Marine Corps Marathon passing out watermelon to finishers of this “People’s Marathon” that goes through Arlington, VA and Washington, DC. Let me tell you, there is no better post-race treat for sore, tired athletes that need to rehydrate, replenish and refuel! Be on the lookout for them in the festival area if you are running the race!
Anne Mauney, the blogger behind Fannetastic Food and fellow watermelon-aficionado, finished the marathon strong last year. “I love eating watermelon after long training runs and races,” said Mauney. “Watermelon is a great way to rehydrate, and also contains potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and antioxidants — all great for recovery!”
Have you ever tried to make a race day fuel? What texture do you prefer — gummies, gels, dissolving tablets, bars, liquid or other? What big race are you planning next? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer