Making Your Own Running Fuel

Confucius said that life is simple, yet we insist on making it complicated.

I suspect if he were alive today he’d say the same thing about running! Just look at the rainbow colored plastic covered nutrition section at any sporting store.

Part of my job as a coach is to simplify the options. Lay them out for my clients to do the research for them and talk through benefits of different choices.

A side bonus of being a vegan is that it’s likely less of a negative impact on the environment and I also do my best to limit food waste and part of that is the plastic around the food we eat. And as you’re likely aware everything from those single use gels to powders almost always come in plastic.

Below you’ll find a few great options that both work equally as well as the plastic covered sport fuel, cost less than half of what you’ll pay at the store, and I think you’ll appreciate the simplicity of what you’ll learn too 🙂

DIY Pre-Run

Before any run over an hour I typically will take in 100-200 calories, maybe a bit more if it’s a long run.

My go to options options before a run are, from easiest to most complex, a banana, power-balls, or bagel.

BananaIngredients: BananaInstructions: Peel and eat.

Power BallsIngredients: 1c pitted & food processed dates, 2/3c oatmeal, 3tbsp chocolate chips, 3tbsp nut butter, 1tbsp chia or ground flax, roll in shredded coconutIntructions: Mix everything well in a bowl and form into small balls of your preference, about 1″ works well enough.This recipe comes out to about 900 calories total, so if you made 9 balls you’d have an easy 100 calorie reference.

BagelIngredients: Bagel, vegan cream cheeseInstructions: Toast bagel (optional), spread on cream cheese, eat.

It’s simple! The best thing about this is that if you use this during training and determine it’s a good option for you (as I have) this can make for a super easy pre-race breakfast. I’ll make a couple of these the night before my marathon and just put them right back into the bagel bag so that morning all I have to do is open the bag and eat!

DIY Intra-Run

Sugar WaterIngredients: 1 bottle of water + 4tbsp of sugar + .25tspn salt and your own 200 calorie sport beverage

Maple SyrupThis is my typical gel alternative. 1 tablespoon of maple syrup is 50 calories of primarily sucrose (table sugar) which is fructose and glucose. You can put them in a small handheld flaskso you’re using less plastic. Put 300 calories (6tbsp) into that and you’re good to go for a few hours!

Seriously, when you spend cash on any sort of Tailwind, Gatorade, etc, the first ingredients after water being sucrose, glucose, maltodextrin, etc are dirt cheap. You can buy 6,000 calories of table sucrose (table sugar) on Amazon for 13 dollars! 100-200 calories hourly is a nice suggestion for running fuel amounts, and that comes to about 2-4 tablespoons of sucrose hourly. The nice thing about sucrose over glucose is that your body can only digest about 60g of glucose hourly, which is about as much as you’d want anyway, but since sucrose has two different types of carbohydrate you can handle it either a bit better or just in slighly higher quantities.

The sugar water costs about 35 cents per 100 calories VS the $1.50 / 100cals of most gels or a package of tailwind is $1.25 / 100 calories and the first two ingredients are glucose and sucrose, that’s it! When you buy these sport drinks you’re mostly spending money on the packaging, marketing, transportation, etc. You can make your own for 25% of the price for 99% of the effect and save on plastic use, gas for transportation, etc.

DIY Post-Run

Again, I’m not one typically for the expensive dedicated sport options where you’re spending

My go-to post-run carb and protein source is simple Silk plant-based milk.

I’ll either do the (always chocolate) Silk soy milk or their protein milk. The soy milk is 9g of protein per cup while the Protein Milk is almond+cashew milk with 10g of pea protein per cup. The reason I like these is that that mixing protein powder sucks, it’s a pain, but with this I just pour 2c of it into a pint glass, it tastes great, and I enjoy it while doing my strength work. I find that I’m just far more likely to use this than a powder, it tastes better, and most importantly there’s no clean up other than the pint glass!

Another great option are the power balls from above would be mixing in some actual protein powder. Some chocolate Vega or a similar powder tastes just fine in these. What we generally use is PB Fit  which is basically peanut butter powder with some of the fat removed. You can mix water in to make some great peanut butter or add it into these protein power balls, breakfast oatmeal, shakes, etc for some added peanut butter protein without the huge amount of fat calories.

If you like what you just learned and want to get more info on my sometimes unconventional yet proven, down to earth, and simple tactics for helping my runners improve their running through sustainable training habits, nutritional guidance, developing great mindfulness practices, and incorporating easy to do running-specific strength work and having all of it come together with great accountability and motivation, visit to learn more!