Most people assume that since I’m the author of Rocket Fuel which is a book dedicated to making your own exercise fuel that I have a serious hate-on for packaged energy foods. That’s not the case. It’s just that I believe a well fueled athlete should rely on a combination of what comes out of their own kitchen and what comes from a store. And truth be told, there are better options than ever when someone is looking for convenience food to help them keep up the pace. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to pass along some of my favorite packaged energy foods that pair perfectly with some DIY fuel when I’m on the saddle for the long haul.
KIND Pressed Bars
One of the newest additions to the line-up of KIND bars are a standout. Athletes who crave simplicity will appreciate that the soft and chewy Pressed bars have a pared down ingredient list that contain little more than fruit and veggies. Don’t worry, they don’t taste like a salad in bar form. There is plenty of natural sweetness from the fruit to make them, well, sweet on the palate. During exercise, I appreciate that they contain a high percentage of carbohydrates to better fuel a workout and lessen the risk of tummy troubles. For instance, the Apricot Pear Carrot Beet bar (yes, that is essentially the extent of the ingredients) gets 95% of its calories from carbohydrates. Compare this to the 44% carbs found in the KIND Almond & Coconut (one of their many nut-based bars) and you see why the Pressed bars can be a better choice for a jersey pocket. Not to mention no risk of melted chocolate coating. I’m happy to give KIND kudos for raising the bar on portable fuel.
Untapped Maple Waffle
Want to slay mid-workout hunger? These portable waffles hit the spot – no waffle maker required. But let’s be honest here, the real reason I’m happy to trumpet these Dutch-style stroopwafels is that they are sweetened with maple syrup. My eastern Canada upbringing has trained my palate to think of maple syrup as its own food group. The primary form of carbohydrate in maple syrup is sucrose, which is a combo of glucose and fructose. Research has shown that sucrose is a reliable exogenous fuel source during endurance exercise and can elevate performance during long bouts of activity.
If your outing involves stopping at a coffee shop along route, try plunking a Untapped waffle in your espresso – a scene that seems almost criminal not to Instagram. Full disclosure: I often enjoy a waffle topped with a smear of nut butter as a pre-ride snack. The brand also offers up a coffee infused waffle (brilliant!) and maple syrup packets for a more natural gel-like shot of energy.
Made in Nature Figgy Pops
If you believe social media, balls are the new energy bars. So it was only a matter of time before companies started packaging up balls for sale on store shelves. Among the burgeoning number of offerings, I’m loving the Figgypops from Made in Nature. Available in appetizing flavors ranging from Tart Cherry Fig to the chocolaty Choco Crunch, these great balls of energy are dried fruit based (from the name, you can hazard a guess they contain dried figs) meaning they contain plenty of natural sugary energy. A serving of the balls gleans about 65% of its energy from carbohydrates so they can help keep you going strong to the finish line. When I don’t have any homemade energy balls on hand, I’ll simply place a handful of Figgy Pops in a zip-top bag and slide them into my jersey pocket for when I’m in need of a quick roadside nosh. I’ve had my eye on Made in Nature for several years now as they have several inventive whole food based products. The Ancient Grains Supersides can make any post-workout meal better.
Sun-Maid Raisin Packs
Sometimes it’s a good idea to call upon Mother Nature to keep your legs moving forward. A recent study found in the pages of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that budget-friendly raisins were just as effective as sport chews at improving endurance performance during an 80-minute run at 75% V02max followed by a 5K time trial. This makes sense when you consider that the parched grapes are 100% carbohydrate energy consisting of a combination of glucose and fructose. Studies show that ingesting two different simple carbs (i.e. glucose and fructose) during exercise is more effective at boosting performance than taking in just one form of simple carbohydrate. Based on this data, I’m a proponent of slipping a box of Sun-Maid raisins into a jersey pocket or gym bag for times when you’re in need of a natural energy boost. In Rocket Fuel, I even have a recipe for a DIY raisin energy shot that will give any commercial gel some stiff competition.
In Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports & Adventure, award-winning dietitian Matt Kadey offers up 120 delicious, creative, and convenient real-food recipes to power your everyday exercise and weekend adventures.
Rocket Fuel is available now in bookstores, outdoors stores, and online from these online retailers:
Barnes & Noble
Chapters/Indigo and MEC.ca in Canada
Food photography by Aaron Colussi.