Wholesome Options for Fueling and Hydrating During Endurance Rides

By Caitlin Boyle of HealthyTippingPoint.com

During my last metric century, I ate an incredible amount of food: a few granola bars, juice, a handful of M&Ms, and as many donuts as I could cram in my mouth. I’d never seen an aid station offer glazed donuts before and snapped them up. All those simple carbohydrates provided me with the energy that I needed to cross the finish line, but by the end of the race, I felt rather depleted and yucky.


On one hand, fueling for endurance events is all about quantity – you need enough calories to sustain your activity. But to do your very best, you need quality, too. Donuts are delicious, but they’re not the most wholesome choice! And you’ll need to complement your food with a steady supply of fluids. If you’re exercising in hot weather or for longer than an hour, you may want to consider a drink with electrolytes (such as potassium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium), which will aid in hydration and muscle recovery.


Since that donut-laden ride, I’ve been seeking more natural fueling and hydration options. Whole, unprocessed foods are ideal, but the snacks also must be easy to carry and eat while on a bike.

Here are some of my favorite on-the-go selections for healthy, wholesome fuel and hydration:


  • Homemade sports drink – I mix a bottle of water with a touch of lime juice, a dash of sea salt, and a dollop of honey.
  • Coconut water – With a nutty, slightly sweet taste, coconut water is packed with sugars and electrolytes.  Think of it as Mother Nature’s Gatorade!


  • Peanut butter sandwiches – Sandwiches hold up rather well in your bike bag or jersey pocket. Slice them in two so they’re easier to eat while pedaling.
  • Dates – This powerful fruit is packed with naturally-occurring sugar, providing a readily available form of energy. One date also provides you with 5% of your daily dose of potassium, which helps your muscles function. Put a few dates in a plastic bag and eat as needed – just watch out for those pits!
  • Energy bars – While some energy bars are packed with artificial foods and sweeteners, there are some great options on the market. I really like Larabar and Clif Bar. You can also easily make your own bars, saving a ton of cash.
  • Homemade energy gel – My friend Matt Frazier of the popular endurance blog No Meat Athlete has said “commercial gels aren’t very appetizing, but they do a good job of cramming a lot of sugar (plus electrolytes) into a small space.” He developed a more natural, delicious option that he mixes up and pours into small plastic bags before his workout. When he needs to fuel, he simply bites the corner off the bag before squeezing the gel into his mouth.

The following recipe will appear in Matt’s new book, No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants & Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self (Fair Winds Press, 2013), which comes out on October 1.


No Meat Athlete’s Homemade Energy Gel
1 tablespoon chia seeds, ground4 tablespoons water4 fresh medjool dates, pits removed

3 tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses

In a small bowl, stir the ground chia seeds into the water, then set aside to let a thick gel form, about five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender, running the motor for a few seconds to chop up the dates as well as possible.

When the chia gel has thickened, add it to other ingredients in the processor or blender and process until you obtain a smooth, gel-like consistency.

Yield: 2/3 cup (about 5 standard 1.1-ounce gel packets)

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