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Energy Bars and Exercise

What do energy bars have to do with exercise? The companies that make energy bars or gels want us to eat them early and often. The GU recommendation is 15 minutes before exercise and every 45 minutes after starting exercise. Hm. Sounds like a bit too much GU for me! The endurance nutrition companies have the main point right: you have to take care of your nutrition while working out over long periods of time. For me, this idea morphs into needing to be prepared before I do a long run. I can’t go running unless I have Nutrition! [with a superhero stance] Having Nutrition! requires Preparation![finger goes up in the air like the Statue of Liberty] which is the problem I want to address here. Figuring out the best way to prepare for long run nutrition.

First I tried to buy Preparation!: I tried Hammer Endurance products, Gatorade powder, and of course GU. At the purchase of all these products I was super stocked because I thought they would be the answer to my feeling of not being ready for my long runs. If I have these instant energy solutions, surely going on a long run will be easier! But the elation quickly died off. I bought massive amounts of Perpetuem (caffè latte flavor!) and threw half of it away after it sat unused for two years. GU has been my most used purchased product, but eating GU every weekend during long runs doesn’t match my idea of a balanced diet. With all the free GU I added to my collection at races and my limited use of GU during long runs, I have double the amount I bought originally (though different flavors).  Short story: My attempts to buy Preparation! were not long-term solutions.

Last year I tried fueling with sandwiches and other “normal” food. This matched my idea of a balanced diet better than GU, but still didn’t give me Preparation! I had to make more sandwiches every time I wanted to go on a run.  At least the products I bought lasted longer than one day. The effort put into making food for each long run was a little too much for me to incorporate the practice as a permanent solution.

My story finally comes to energy bars. I recently came across an energy bar recipe that may be my Preparation! Now finding an energy bar recipe is not unusual; I had discovered some delicious sounding energy bar recipes  at Vegetarian Runner last year when I was training for the 20in24. But I never made them. Though I think of myself as a cook and as someone familiar with foreign ingredients, some bars at the website contained ingredients that were just a little too foreign. The Spicy Carob Banana Energy Bars call for sprouted buckwheat and salba… hmm, that doesn’t sound like something I can pick up in bulk at Nuts to You.

And then I discovered this recipe: The Ultimate DIY Running Bar.
And I went out to Nuts to You and bought all the ingredients.
And went home and made energy bars.
As the bars were cooling I thought “huh, when am I planning on using these??”
I did not plan to go on a long run any time soon. But with energy bars in hand, I was ready. And you know what I did? I went on a long run that Saturday, energy bar in Ziplock bag in pocket!

What I really like about the Ultimate DIY Running Bar is that it reminds me of an oatmeal bar that I used to cook up for breakfasts on the go but more energy packed. It’s my perfect mini-meal. I’ve been using this bar as a pre-morning-workout-breakfast because I need real breakfast when I get back from the workout. It’s also the mini-meal I was missing between a day of work and an evening of Ultimate. Dinner would be too heavy before playing but lunch was not enough to hold me over until the end of the game barbecue. Boom! Energy bar=perfect mini meal!

The moral is that preparation itself can be a motivator of activity. Being prepared gives you one less reason to not do something. Blogs and articles always say things like ‘Lay out your running clothes and you will make it out the door for an early run’. Well I haven’t really listened until now. And I probably still will not lay out my running clothes. But I like these energy bars. Making them has helped get me out the door for morning workouts and for long runs.

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