I really have been trying to get ahold of my nutrition during my runs. It always has been a challenge for me to get this area nailed down. What trail races did teach me though is that the traditional way of fueling during a race (Gels, Gummies, and the like) isn’t the only way and that whole foods, like potato chips, salted boiled potatoes, trail mix, and watermelon have their place. And running the 12 hour endurance run I quickly found even eating a brat or a slice of pizza is just fine. In fact I was really tempted at the Surf City Marathon to take a couple of slices of crisp bacon from a group that had created a makeshift aid station (really it was a Super Bowl tailgate party, pretending to be an aid station). But when I get down to it, have had a need to dial in my nutrition.
I have tried a wide assortment of Gels, Blocks, Jelly Belly’s, and Red Vines. I have also gone strictly with Gatorade style electrolyte drinks. All have had some measure of success; however, I find that once I go down the sugar path I will have some major energy swings. This occurs even when I am keeping up with my scheduled refueling strategy. I understand the key problem here, my blood sugar levels /insulin get out of whack and it is really hard to recover.
Because of this, I have found that I have more success with whole foods. For example, on many of my marathons I have cut up Clif Builder bars. I have found the ratio of carb, fat, and protein to work. To take this concept further, I also tried trail mix on a 50K but found that it didn’t work quite as well. And the biggest drawback is when you are trying to breathe while you are chewing during a run. I can’t tell you how many times I started choking on chocolate mint builder spittle.
That said, I recently learned about PocketFuel Naturals on SallyMcCrea’s site as well as GingerRunner. These are packets of almond or hazelnut butter mixed with other whole foods like coconut, pineapple, cherry, Chia, Goji, and blueberry. There are two serving per pouch and each serving is about 150 calories which make it easy to use one pouch per hour. I will also divulge that I purchased all of the different varieties at Sports Basement in Walnut Creek on my own and this review is in no way been paid to promote Pocket Fuel Natural products.
There are two challenges I have found with these though related to the packaging. The first is that the pouch is a twist-off which is great for caring the two servings. However, I do find that there is a little left in the pouch. Second is that since this is whole foods, you are required to squish and squeeze the contents a bit before you take the first serving to mix the contents. I actually do not mind this since I normally plan ahead of when I need it, especially if I am at the bottom of a steep climb, and it kind of acts as a mid-race stress ball.
There are a wide arrange of flavors and I liked them all; however, there were a couple of favorites that stood out. My favorite is the Pineapple Coconut and I have found a lot of success with this flavor. The other is the Chocolate Espresso which I like just because it has a little bit of bitter espresso beans mixed in with the mixture which is nice especially during a long run. The one I did not care for was the vanilla hazelnut because it was too sweet for me. This could have been because I did not properly mix it; however, I got a huge mouthful of overly sweet hazelnut which took me by surprise.
What I like about these packets is that you get a fair amount of all your macro nutrients. In the pineapple coconut, for example, there is 12g of fat, 5g of sugar, and 5g of protein. This combo really balances the sugar and insulin levels. It also contains 175mg of potassium also. I will have to say that there is very little sodium (1mg) which does meant you need to take an electrolyte tablet during your runs to get the much needed salt. I learned the hard way at again at the Surf City Marathon and missed my PR.
What I love the most is that the consistency is just right. Like I described up above, I hate when you can’t refuel mid-run using a whole food. However with my Pocket Fuel I can run like I am taking a Gel without gagging. I will have to say, the Cherry and Blueberries in the Blueberry Banana flavor got stuck in my teeth but this served as a nice distraction as I worked on them off my teeth.
I have definitely seen a change in my need for energy during a race. I have been training solely with Pocket Fuel now for the last 12 weeks and have not seen the energy drop off or bonking I was suffering from when I used only Gels. I would recommend if you also decide to move towards this route to definitely work it into your training runs, become more fat adapted so your body is used to tapping into its fat reserves and burning fat for fuel instead of glycogen.
Talking with different Sports Basement cashiers, they seeing these fly off the shelf and it is pretty common to find that the varieties are at times limited because of this. All that said, I would definitely recommend trying out the Pocket Fuel Naturals!