October is unprocessed food month, an entire month dedicated to eating real food and becoming more aware of the frightening amount of chemicals and preservatives in the food we consume on a daily basis. Maybe I’ve been living in Berkeley too long, maybe I’ve read too many of Michael Pollan’s books, maybe I just got sick of eating things with ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, or maybe I ate one too many Powerbars and finally caved in. Either way, the October Unprocessed Food Challenge is a good excuse to explore living life by the law of “the kitchen rule.” (i.e. “If you pick up something with a label and find an ingredient you’d never use in your kitchen and couldn’t possibly make yourself from the whole form, it’s processed.”) For runners, it brings a new set of challenges: trying to find alternative energy sources for those long runs. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of gels or energy bars so I started exploring alternatives a number of years ago and the following are a few of my favorites.
My bet is that the pre-packaged apple sauce packets that you can find at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s probably have refined sugar in them. Either way, they’re still a nice alternative if you find yourself getting a little burned out on gels. Otherwise, apple sauce is really easy to make and if you can make it using only apples and honey, you are well within the “kitchen rules.” I have a reusable gel flask that I use to put the apple sauce in when I run. If you have a food processor or a juicer (or a lot of patience) you can get even more creative, adding bananas, carrots, or other fruits to your apple sauce.
Anyone who has read Born to Run is already pretty familiar with this dietary fad, but in terms of energy drink alternatives, you really can’t beat it. I love to make this raspberry chia seed lemonade the night before my run and fill one of my water bottles with the mixture. So refreshing and a great alternative to Gatorade-type drinks.
There are so many recipes out there for homemade protein bars that you can just about find anything to suit your particular taste and since most of the recipes are very substitution-friendly, it’s easy to mold it to your own style.
According to Runner’s World, honey is “the perfect running fuel” because its “natural unrefined sugars are easily absorbed by the body” and “the simple carbohydrates are a great source of energy.” The article goes on to point out that honey was used as an energy source by runners in the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. If you don’t feel like pouring honey into your own container, there are always pre-packaged options like Go Honey!