If you take away the beer, wine, crisps, chocolate and cakes, I have a top notch nutritional approach. Ok, the beer et al are normally a weekend thing, and strictly only when a big race isn’t coming up. I guess about a 90/10% split. That’s 90% of ‘good food’ like whole, fresh unprocessed food stuffs and 10% of awesome foods like beer, wine and chocolate.
When a target, A race is in the calendar and the training approach is worked on, the ‘diet’ is utterly dialled in. It is difficult to be so strict with myself all year and I allow myself the indulgences when I am not targeting any races. Mostly to the detriment of my waistline. I am one stubborn and determined egg though and I can switch to super strict quicker than Trump can covfefe!
Race nutrition is still an evolving programme for me. I’ve tried lots of products over the years. Many gels have been consumed, many have been binned, and many have been stored at the back of the cupboard for many years. That has just reminded me to go and clear them out! Race hydration will always be Tailwind, water and flat coke for that final push. I will never forget just how good water tasted when I was handed it at mile 50 odd in last year’s Anglo Celtic Plate. A lot of people talk about coconut water’s thirst quenching abilities, but for me it is just H2O, plain and simple. Sometimes you just can’t get any better.
I’ve not found that right gel yet, or at least not until now. I have dabbled with making my own food balls and they would be fine if you are racing where drop bags are available or checkpoints but if it is self supported and you have to carry all your food then those home made ‘power’ balls can end up home made ‘power’ crumbs after bobbling about in a race vest. I took my spirulina balls with me last Monday (29th May 2017) on the run in the Scottish mountains. Their binding agent is coconut oil, which when cold is solid, but put it in your hands and it quickly becomes liquid. Well after 3 hours of running, your back gives off a lot of heat and when I took the spirulina balls out of the bag, they reminded me of an ectoplasm residue! I am still working on the recipe for these, so if anyone out there can provide a stable binding agent, that is whole, unrefined and doesn’t taste like kak, I am all ears. Maybe I should tweet Trump and ask when he puts in his Barnet?
A few months ago, I had acquired a few chia seed ‘gels’ by a company called 33 Shake. I’d listened to the company founder, Warren Pole, on the Trail Runner Nation podcast many months ago. If you haven’t listened to the padcast, go do it, really fun show and they have lots of great guests. Warren is charismatic guy and, like almost all company founders, believe their products to be the best on the market. The all natural, mostly organic ingredients list pleased my inner healthy living being. They come as a dry gel, sounds like an oxymoron, but they are dry ingredients that you have to add some water to.
The Back of the Pack
The ingredients are:
- Chia seeds
- Coconut palm sugar
- Madagascan vanilla
- Himalayan Pink Salt
The nutritional profile of a single gel pack is
- Calories – 90
- Protein – 2.2g
- Carbs – 11.2g
- Sugars – 6g
- Fat – 4g
- Saturated Fat – 0.4g
- Fibre – 5g
- Iron – 1.1mg
- Sodium – 17.6mg
- Potassium – 103mg
- Calcium – 1.1mg
They don’t pack as many calories as some other gels on the market, or indeed a Tailwind stick pack, but I wouldn’t just use these gels, I would always be looking at other products like Tailwind or real food to compliment. The pink rock salt is a good additive. Table salt is just sodium chloride, highly refined and virtually no nutritional value. The Himalayan salt on the other hand also has potassium, magnesium, calcium, oxygen and hydrogen in very small amounts, but not insignificant amounts that may well help you in times of stress i.e. like an ultra marathon.
The suggestion on the pack is that you should add water, coconut water or fruit juice (!!!) and do this up to 24 hours prior to using them. I suppose so that you don’t need to put water in them when you are out on the course. As it was, I was running with a flask of water in my race vest, so decided to fill the gels on the hoof. I have to say that was a little fiddly and a little messy. It didn’t help having the Ultimate Direction bottles. One squeeze of them and water fires out the spout like a fire hose!! On future runs, or races, I will definitely be taking the manufacturers advice. It would also mean they would be ready when you needed them. Filling them with water as and when you need them, means you have to wait about 10 minutes for the water to be absorbed by the dry contents. The pack has a tight screw top lid and you need that to enable some vigorous shaking once the chosen liquid is added. However, when they are ready to be eaten the lid comes off and you are left with an easy ‘spout’ to suck the gel into your mouth.
I won’t deny this, I was hesitant to try this gel. I wanted something sweet and the main content of this gel was going to be chia seeds and water. I’ve made chia seed slurry as a desert in the past and it is an acquired taste. The thought of that taste, at that moment in time, brought on a little fear! As I hiked up the top half of the Devil’s Staircase I got over myself and squeezed the gel into my mouth. I was hit by this intense sweetness, not an overly sweet taste, like you would get from ‘death by chocolate’ cake, this was pleasant and the consistency was nice. The overriding flavour is vanilla, which again wasn’t overpowering. The little chia seeds stuck between my teeth only moved my concentration from the pain of hiking up the Devil’s 1000ft ascent.
These are very good gels. Ok they are not, rip it open and consume, but I think the prior arrangement of putting water in them before you head out is minor and won’t stop me using them again in training and racing. The packaging is completely recyclable as well so there is no need to dump these empty gel packs on the course either!! You know who you are! A pack of 10 will cost just under 20 quid, so roughly £2 per gel. I think you are getting great value for money if you are conscious of what types of food you put in your body.