Nick and I have made a tradition of visiting our local San Diego Farmer’s Markets when we’re around on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Besides picking up fresh fruit and vegetables (and meat and eggs and herbs) for the week, we have our favorite booths for lunch (African cuisine for Nick and a veggie bowl with toasted pecans for me). A few weeks ago, we were strolling through the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market, our lunches in hand, when we noticed a booth selling energy gels.
As someone who prefers real, whole foods in all aspects of my life, I’ve struggled with powdered supplements and overly-sweet and hyper-caffeinated gels during runs and races. In the past I’ve done my training runs on toasted Ezekial cinnamon-raisin bread with coconut oil or banana-egg pancakes I’ve made the night before. These work fine for me, but are certainly not convenient nor preferable during races.
So, we headed over to the Muir Energy booth to see if there was another option.
Ian, the owner and founder of Muir Energy Gels, began explaining his five ingredient energy gels that he developed while hiking the John Muir Trail. As he explains on his website:
“Like many endurance athletes, I struggled to find the right nutrition to keep me going while pushing my body to its limits. Most food bars are dry, heavy and not very healthy. Most energy gels are sweet and synthetic tasting, and contain ominous sounding ingredients.
I wanted something simple. And quick. Something that tasted really good and was made with real organic ingredients–derived from nature, not in a lab. Something clean, reliable and good.”
Ian let us taste-test both of his fast-burning, higher-carb gels and his slow-burning, low-intensity fat-based gels. Surprisingly, neither are overly sweet and they taste more like homemade jam or a nut butter you might spread on toast.
The slow-burning gels contain roughly 150 calories per pouch and feature ingredients like Organic raw cacao powder, organic creamy unsalted almond butter, organic coconut palm nectar, organic blacktstrap molasses and organic pink himalayan salt.
Flavors include: Cacao Almond, Cacao Almond Mate, Cashew Vanilla, Cashew Lemon and Cacao Almond Peppermint
The fast-burning gels are less dense at 115 calories per pouch and contain slightly more sugar. These gels feature ingredients like Organic red raspberry powder, organic coconut palm nectar, organic blackstrap molasses, organic yerba mate powder and organic pink himalayan salt.
Flavors include: Red Raspberry, Red Raspberry Mate and Blackberry Thyme.
I bought a box on the spot to try out, knowing that I needed something for my upcoming Old West 50K (read my race report here!)
The night before my race, I stuffed a variety of Ian’s gels into my pack–I decided upon two slow-burning (Cacao Almond and Cacao Vanilla) and two fast-burning (Red Raspberry Mate and Blackberry Thyme).
I ate the Cacao Almond at roughly the one-hour mark, then the second slow-burning Cacao Vanilla at the two hour mark. The last two gels were eaten at hours three and four, although I started getting hungry by mile 28. I likely should have brought an extra one or two for more energy, though I felt strong and satiated until the finish.
Delicious. I had zero issues digesting these gels and all four tasted great. If I had to choose, I would say that I prefer the slow-burning gels as they’re slightly less sweet. Since all of the gels rely on coconut palm nectar or blackstrap molasses–rather than fructose or sucralose–I had no problems with the sugar content. Additionally, many all-natural energy gels contain dates which I cannot digest during runs due to the high fiber content. I’m happy to have found locally made, organic and wholesome energy gels that fit all of these needs.
Most importantly, the gels kept me satisfied and focused on the race without having to worry about what I was eating nor how it would affect me minutes later.
Two big thumb’s up for Muir Energy!
To order Muir Energy gels for yourself, check out Ian’s website here. Better yet, visit the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market in San Diego on Sunday mornings.