Every good endurance athlete knows that nutrition is every bit as important as training. If you aren’t properly fueled, you won’t be performing at your best—and will even risk crashing mid-race or workout. Whether your M.O. is running, cycling, or swimming, that quick ‘n easy snack or supplement during a long training session should be packed with nutrients to keep you going. With too many options out there, just finding the right fuel can be tiring. Here are eight of our favorite mid-workout energy boosters.
1. GU Energy Gel
Designed to supply energy and key nutrients lost during exercise, GU Energy Gels are one of most convenient, mid-workout snacks. Available in a wide variety of flavors, GU gels contain the perfect blend of complex and simple carbohydrates that help sustain you during long workouts. They’re portable and easy to eat (and digest) while in motion, making them ideal to munch on mid-race or mid-workout. Pro tip: if you have a hard time with the consistency, mix them with some water for an easier swallow.
[From $10; guenergy.com]
2. SaltStick Capsules
It’s probably ingrained in your mind that sodium is bad for you—but for endurance athletes especially, salt is your friend. Sodium is essential because it helps maintain fluid balance in the body. Salt and electrolytes are rapidly lost through sweat, so it’s important to replenish them during long workouts. As the name suggests, SaltStick Capsules are packed with salt and electrolytes, working to reduce muscle cramping and boost stamina while maintaining the five electrolytes lost through sweat (potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride). Take one capsule every 30-60 minutes to sustain peak performance.
[From $13; saltstick.com]
3. Tailwind Endurance Fuel
Tailwind’s Endurance Fuel mixes with water and provides athletes with essential calories, electrolytes, and hydration. Made with all-natural ingredients and natural flavors, the combination of water, fuel, and electrolytes has a synergistic effect, allowing the body to absorb more of each and keep you sustained for longer periods of time and at higher intensities. Simply mix some of the powder into a to-go bottle and stay fueled and hydrated during those longer workouts.
[From $2.50; tailwindnutrition.com]
4. Pickle Juice
It may sound disgusting, but if you’re prone to cramps pickle juice could be the elusive solution. Why pickle juice? It contains 10-15 times the electrolytes of traditional sports drinks, contains zero calories and zero sugar, and is packed with vitamins and minerals. Although there isn’t science yet to prove it, researchers believe pickle juice is effective at stopping and preventing cramps because it triggers muscle reflexes when it hits the back of the throat. This in turn prevents the misfiring of neurons that trigger cramping. If you tend to cramp, try packing a shot of pickle juice for your next workout.
[From $20; picklepower.com]
5. BonkBreaker Energy Chews
BonkBreaker Energy Chews work like energy gels—combining fast acting carbohydrates and electrolytes to support muscle contraction. But while energy gels are traditionally eaten in one go, energy chews come in small bites and can be eaten in whatever portion the athlete requires. Packed with 240mg of vital electrolytes and 100mg of caffeine from all-natural white tea sources, BonkBreakers provide a much-needed boost of energy while remaining easy to digest. If you struggle with the taste or texture of energy gels, here’s your chewable alternative.
6. Clif Bar
You’d be hard pressed to find a more classic trail snack than a Clif Bar. Although they aren’t as quick to eat as some options out there, they’re sufficiently filling and packed with essential nutrients, making them a great mid-workout snack. Available in a wide range of flavors, Clif Bars blend carbohydrates, protein, and fat to provide long-lasting energy for lengthy workouts. Made from sustainably sourced ingredients, Clif Bars contain simple sugars, organic oats, plant protein, nuts, seeds, and oils, providing a time-tested blend of flavor and energy.
7. Kate’s Real Food Energy Bars
As the name indicates, Kate’s Real Food energy bars are made with organic, all-natural ingredients to keep you nutritiously boosted. Every bar contains organic almond or peanut butter mixed with organic oats, brown rice crisps, and organic honey for a nutritious snack with flavors that you’ll actually recognize. Bars take a little more time to consume than gels or chews, so they’re better suited for workouts than races.
[From $15; katesrealfood.com]
8. Baby Food
Weird as it may sound, baby food is gaining popularity as a snack for endurance athletes. Made with simple and natural ingredients, it’s packed with sugar and carbohydrates, easy enough for a baby to digest, and offers quick and reliable energy for larger humans. Many brands of baby food are available in convenient, “on-the-go” squeeze pouches that are as easy to carry as they are to eat. Plus, maybe you forgot, they taste surprisingly okay. You can buy squeeze pouches from different sport snack manufacturers or simply pick some up from the baby food aisle at your local grocery store.