Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cooking with 4 Feet Running (except there's no cooking involved)


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Hey, everyone. Dan here. I've been promising people on Twitter for a while that I was going to blog about some recipes Nik & I have been making: homemade gels and drinks. But I'd been reluctant to share the recipes because I wanted to know for certain that they tasted all right and they worked. I don't want to be responsible for screwing up your run! I can't have that on my conscience! 

We've been using homebrew stuff for a few weeks now, using different flavors and combinations, and we're pretty confident that we've come up with some good recipes and ideas, so I'm here to post some of them. Use them any way you like -- change them, improve them, love them, hug them, ignore them.

First, a little history, and an explanation of why we did this: This all started because Nik is allergic to nuts and stuff with nut byproducts in it. She also can't eat wheat or too many carbs, so that means most energy bars are out. We used to use Hammer Nutrition gels on the run. Once upon a time, they had a note on the website assuring you that their products were nut-free. Not anymore. We don't know why. Probably because it's extremely difficult to be legally 100%-cover-your-ass certain, given the cross-contamination that's common in food production factories. So she's avoiding Hammer gels, just in case. She also used to use Clif Shot Bloks. They're chewy, delicious, easy to use. But after a couple of long runs with those, she noticed a tightness in her throat that felt eerily similar to the kind of tightness she gets from nut allergies. On their website, they say they can't guarantee their products are nut-free, either.

She figured there's got to be a better way -- if she made stuff herself, she would know exactly what's in it, right? So she decided to start making her own drinks and gels. (She also made some dried fruit and fruit-rollups in a food dehydrator. We'll talk about those in a future post.)

At this same time, I was listening to an episode of the Running From the Reaper podcast, and Nigel described making his own homebrew electrolyte drink. I started thinking it would be great for me to try out this homemade stuff as well -- I'm not allergic to anything, but I've been low on Hammer gel and HEED, and anyone who's ordered products from Hammer knows that shipping time is ridiculously slow. I've never gotten a shipment from them in less than 2 weeks. I hate Gatorade because it makes me burp. And I was intrigued by the idea that we could make running fuel that was much, much cheaper. So I started making stuff too. I'm indebted to Nigel for his recipe, and I'll include it below.

We had two criteria when making stuff:
  • No exotic ingredients. Use stuff we already have in our fridge.
  • No expensive ingredients. Either it's cheap or it's not worth it.
Here's what we came up with. The basic recipes include possible substitutions. Enjoy, and as always, if you're unsure about using them, do your own research before trying these out. They work for us, but be sure they work for you.

(makes 20 oz)

• 1/4 cup of orange juice
• 1/8 to 1/4 tsp (or less) of salt
• 2 tbsp of sugar or honey
• 2 tbsp of lemon or lime juice
• water

Put 1/4 cup of water in a microwave-safe cup and add salt and sugar/honey. Microwave it for a few seconds, just enough heat so the salt and sugar crystals melt. Pour the mixture into your running bottle. Add the orange juice, lemon/lime juice. Fill up the rest of your bottle with cold water, shake to mix.

Notes and substitutions:

  • I say "(or less)" because you can tweak these amounts to suit your taste and needs. If you generally sweat a lot and need to replace a lot of electrolytes on a run, like I do, add a flat 1/4 tsp of salt. If you tend not to need as much electrolytes, like Nik, add 1/8 tsp. If you don't want as much sugar, undercut that.
  • I've also tried this drink using limeade, iced green tea, or orange/banana/strawberry juice. They all taste great. The O/B/S juice blend has a much less acidic flavor than straight-up OJ, and the green tea is nicely sweet and dry. Note: I used powdered iced green tea mix, which contains a lot of sugar, so you'll probably want to cut down on the extra sugar you add.
  • If you try the limeade or iced green tea, be warned that those flavors alone do not contain potassium, so you'll need to add some. Potassium helps prevent muscle cramping, and I found that I got abdominal stitches if I had a drink without it. Use those juices but add a splash of orange juice (the flavors blend nicely together) to get in your potassium, or have a banana just before your run if you're not going very far. 
  • The lemon and lime juice is in there for an extra kick of flavor. If you don't like it, or don't have any in your house, it's not necessary. Or just cut it down.



(Makes 16 oz)

• 1 tsp sugar
• pinch of salt
• orange juice
• water

Nigel says he takes his 16 oz. bottle, fills it with half OJ and the other half with water. He adds the sugar and salt, mixes it, and it's ready to go. The key difference between this drink and the one above: since he's using more OJ it's got less sugar, because OJ has sugar in it naturally of course. There's a trade-off there. It's also got a stronger orange flavor (duh), so if you really like the taste of OJ, give this one a go sometime too.



• honey (1 tbsp = 60 calories)
• orange juice (2 oz = 30 calories)
• touch of molasses
• pinch of salt
• Total: 90 calories

This makes an energy gel with the same calorie count as one packet of gel. It's got electrolytes like sodium and potassium too, which is nice. Take a running gel flask (usually 4 or 5 oz), and, using a funnel, add a tablespoon of honey. Drop in a touch of molasses, about l/4 tsp or less. Add a pinch of salt, about 1/8 tsp. Add orange juice to help mix the ingredients and for flavor (2 oz is two lines' worth on a gel flask).

You will probably need to adjust this based on how long you're going, your pace, and your needs.

To calculate the proportions of stuff for you: Use a calculator like this one to figure out about how many servings of gel you'll need on a long run, based on your average pace and weight. Then use the formula of 60 cal. of honey + 15 cal. of OJ to make up your flask. You can add more OJ or less, more honey or less, whatever you like. It takes some math at first, but once you get your proportions set for typical long runs, it'll be easy.

An example: Nik knows she needs about 90 calories per hour on a run. She's going for about 2 hours. She'll need 180 calories of gel.

  • 2 tbsp of honey = 120 calories
  • 4 oz of orange juice = 60 calories
  • Total = 180 calories
She could've done just 3 tbsp of honey (60 cals. x 3 tbsp. = 180 calories), but the OJ makes it come out of the flask easier and gives it a nice flavor and some potassium. The molasses adds more potassium to prevent muscle cramping and acts with the salt as a concentrated electrolyte drink. She sips it throughout the run every 2.5 miles, rather than having a packet of gel that dumps a load of sugar into her system all at once.

Another example: I'm going for a run that should take me an hour and a half. I usually take about 1 Hammer gel packet on this kind of run, which is 90 calories.
  • 1 tbsp of honey = 60 calories
  • 2 oz of orange juice = 30 calories
  • Total = 90 calories. 
You can tweak it more based on how you feel. Like, the one gel packet may not be enough. I may need about 110 calories for an hour's worth of running. Since I'm going for more than that, I may want just a little more than just one "packet's" worth. I'll add 2 oz. more juice for 60 calories there, plus 60 calories of honey = 120 calories of gel, or enough to keep me fueled up for over an hour.

Make sense?

We hope these recipes help you. If you have suggestions for improvement, let us know!

Some resources:
• Nancy Clark's homemade sports drink recipe (the electrolyte drink is also heavily indebted to this recipe too)


Unknown said...

Awesome. Thanks for sharing this guys. Lot's to study... but I'm not seeing the Gin version Nigel always talks about in his podcast. And I thought there would be a Vodka gel too.

But seriously... this is awesome. Thanks!

Wendy T. said...

Not for Nik, but Dan, you can also make a good gel out of banana, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and rice syrup (or honey I imagine). I heat the peanut butter a bit in the microwave and stir it all together with one of those hand blender things. I have no idea how many calories that adds up to but I bet it is a lot.

salomon shoes said...

Wow! That's really great, thanks for that awesome recipe. I want to try it by myself. :)

pearl izumi said...

thanks for that delicious recipe!

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