How would you like to save a ton of money on your gels, chews, and sports beans? What if I told you that you could save, while also eating healthier?
For me, these gels and chews make up a substantial portion of my annual running budget. Or at least, they did.
The problem is that there are few really good commercial alternatives to these expensive, highly artificial gels, and chews. Compounding that problem is the necessity of staying well-fueled on longer runs. You don’t fuel, you bonk. Nobody wants to bonk in the middle of a big race, right?
Well I, for one, am no longer content to spend as much on gels in a year as I would a new pair of shoes. And I’m putting my foot down on consuming products containing a majority of ingredients I can’t pronounce (or find outside of a lab).
What’s in your “performance” food?
I already fired the first shot back in March. As Fred Rogers would say, “Can you say, ‘all-natural, $0.66 energy gel?’ I know you can.”
Brace yourselves, folks, because here comes the second volley.
This time, I’ve taken aim at the more solid version of the performance food family. You may know them as chomps, or bloks. A ton of runners (including yours truly) prefer the texture of these chews to the sludgy consistency of the energy gels. If that’s you, this is my way of making sure you’re not left out of the cheap and wholesome fun.
As with my gel recipe, I’ve added the additional wrinkle of incorporating the ancient tarahumara superfood, chia seed. My goal is to help you fuel your runs using only the most wholesome, nutritious ingredients possible. What could be more appropriate than the staple trusted by the most regarded runners on the planet?
We’ll be using the same electrolyte mix as in the previous recipe.
¼ teaspoon salt substitute (potassium chloride), such as Morton’s Lite Salt Mixture
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
Vegan friendly gelatin alternative
As one final note before I show you the recipe, you’ll find one very strange ingredient in this mix. It’s a vegan gelatin substitute derived from seaweed known as agar-agar, or kanten.
I can’t tell you how difficult it was for me to find kanten at retail. I ended up at a small asian grocery, where it was tucked in among the desserts.
If you find that you also have this problem, there are two real solutions. First, if you’re not vegan, you can substitute gelatin for the kanten in equal amounts.
Second, you can find kanten/agar online at iHerb. As a bonus for this second option, if you use the code RUF029 at checkout on iHerb, you’ll get $5.00 off your first order. Since agar is a whopping $5.98, it’ll be a little under $3.00 shipped, and makes four recipes (40 servings).
Full Disclosure: I’ll receive a small commission if you take the discount using the code above.
Anyway, on to the recipe.
Piña-Colada Energy Chew
1 cup pineapple juice
2 ounces chia seed
¼ cup coconut milk
1 serving electrolyte mix
1½ cup turbinado sugar, such as Sugar In The Raw
1 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup water
½ ounce powdered agar-agar (kanten)
- Mix the pineapple juice and chia seed together in a small saucepan. Boil the pineapple juice mixture over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Place the mixture in the refrigerator until it returns to room temperature. Once cooled, combine the pineapple juice mixture with the coconut milk and the electrolyte mix, stirring until the mixture is fully incorporated, then set aside.
- Mix the sugar, brown rice syrup, water, and agar-agar together in a heavy saucepan. Cook the sugar mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 230°. This should happen in approximately 20-25 minutes. However, allowing the mixture to exceed 230° can result in chews which are too hard to… well… chew. To that end, you’ll want to use a good candy thermometer during this process.
- Once the sugar mixture reaches 230°, remove it from the heat and place the saucepan into a cool water bath to stop the sugar mixture from continuing to cook. Make sure the water level is low enough that it does not breach the top of the pan and spill into the sugar mixture. Quickly stir in the pineapple juice mixture from step 1.
- Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9″x9″ baking dish with vegetable oil. I dab a bit on some paper towel and rub it on to make sure the coat isn’t too thick. Pour the contents of the saucepan into the baking dish, and let it stand for approximately 4 hours, or until it is mostly set. Cut the gel into 1″ squares, then coat lightly with corn starch to remove any remaining stickiness.
Yields approximately 10 servings
So that’s the recipe. It’s a little more work to make than the energy gel, but I just love the chewy consistency. It reminds me so much of a gummy bear. Plus, it’s substantially more portable.
I should also mention that the skinflint in me loves that I pay only $0.97 per serving for something all-natural as opposed to $2.00+ for chemical slurry. That’s over a $10 savings in just a single recipe!
With this recipe, I know I’m not only taxing my wallet less, but also my body. As runners, we rely on our bodies for so much. Isn’t it worth a little time in the kitchen to know we’re supporting them well so they’ll be there when we need them?
Find Ingredients And Additional Recipes
If you’re having trouble finding agar powder and chia seeds, I typically order my supply through iHerb.com. First time shoppers can use the coupon code RUF029 to knock $5.00 off your first order. And, as a bonus, orders made using the coupon code help support articles like this one.
Finally, if you’re looking for additional recipes to help you fuel your runs, you should check out No Meat Athlete’s recipe book: Fuel Your Run The Tarahumara Way! Matt’s vegetarian-friendly pinole recipes will definitely become some of your favorite running fuel. The pinole buckwheat pancakes alone are reason enough for me to affiliate this one.
What do you think, Midpack Readers? Does controlling what goes into your performance food make a difference to you? What questions do you have for me about the recipe? Leave me a comment!