Natural & Vegan Energy Gels I made for the marathon - ONLY 6 ingredients!
I told you I’d give you all my marathon secrets i wasn’t joking ;-) hehehe !!!
So, maybe it’s your project to run a marathon, half marathon, or perform any other prolonged physical activity?
I am sure you are already super strong, fit and trained - but unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to prevent losing KEY nutrients + energy as you move during 2hours+ !!!
Although this is a recipe blog post, I want to take the time to tell you a bit more about how the body functions during endurance activity (well, very roughly!).
So first, your body will use the energy in your blood stream that’s the most easily accessible (glucose) and comes from food you just ate (especially if it’s a quick-release sugar: sweets, sweeteners, added sugars.. other complex carbohydrate like fruits, veggies, rice, pasta, oats etc contain fiber so they’re slower to release in the blood & are more sustainable for energy).
Then, you have glycogen storage, which are full from complex-carbohydrates you ate prior and didn’t use yet.
Then, once the storage are empty (may take from 1h30 to 2h20 of activity for some people), the body taps into fats & protein (can use protein from your own muscle .. which means, as an endurance athlete, you may lose muscle if you don’t have enough protein in your general diet).
THIS (the last part) is what you want to avoid. You don’t want your body to tap into fats & protein because it’s a complex physiological process requiring energy + extra heating and you don’t want to use so much of your energy to provide yourself energy (are you followin?). Well, taping into fats+protein is going to be inevitable to some extend, but you want to avoid it.
Additionally to that, as you exercise for that long, well, you sweat. Which means 1. you dehydrate yourself (so important to keep drinking throughout the activity) and 2. you lose minerals (also called electrolytes) via sweat (not only sodium!)
BUT WHO CARES if you lose that? you can eat after, can’t you?
WELL your body cares. No minerals = no proper functioning body = no proper functioning muscles = tired body = not performant = risk of injuries = risk of shitty workout/race = risk of highly low self esteem = 100% chance of being totally irresponsible (i’ve been there so #nojudgement).
Did I convince you to eat DURING your activity ? I hope so!!
Alrighty, so, some people will grab either very simple food like banana, dried fruits, nuts.. either an “energy drink” (like powerade, gatorade etc).. either nut bars, or energy gels - others won’t eat (but you already know this isn’t smart!).
As a healthy lifestyle advocate, I try to stay away from all the energy gels & bars on the market because, even if they‘re made to provide everything to your body in terms of minerals (that’s not always the case), they’re also often full of ‘fake food’: sweeteners, chemicals, supplements, coloring, flavoring. Just everything I want to stay away from.
SO, this is why I wanted to make my own gels for the marathon because why would I care about my body all year round and then feed it with unnatural things for a race (when I need to be at my best health condition)?
At the same time, I wanted to do things smart. do my research in terms of product composition, what key elements I would need to replenish and what would be a good mix that would also taste yummy. Because yes, that energy gel tastes AMAZING, you’re going to be excited for the race just for the sake of it - you’re welcome ;)
With my research**, I knew I needed to come up with something :
High in carbohydrates (min 25g per gel)
High in sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium & phosphorus (all ideally over 40mg of all per gel)
with Vitamin B1 : contributes to healthy metabolism
with Vitamin E (1.5mg/gel) + Zinc (2.5mg/gel) (anti-oxidants): contributes to protect cells from oxydative stress
with Vitamin B6 + C : against fatigue
with BCAA (key proteins: leucine, isoleucine, and valine)
** Hey, you know I’m not a doctor, I’m just a little bloger that likes to research & read things so please if you are smarter than me or know more, you’re welcome to correct me but also don’t hold me responsible if something goes wrong.
Let's have a lil look at the six ingredients needed:
They make the bulk of the Carbohydrate (macro) element of the gel. Dates are full of natural sugars (the good ones!) - a good mix of quick released and more sustainable with the fiber. Dates are also super rich in vitamin B6, potassium, maganese & magnesium.
Peanut (or almond) butter
For the taste of things, and also the texture. But also because PB is high in protein, folate, vitamin E + magnesium, phosphorus & calcium.
That’s a key part in your gel, for the sodium you’ll lose - bonus point if it’s natural and supplemented in iodine.
Coconut Water in Powder
I repeat : coconut water in powder. NOT powder coconut. NOT shredded coconut. NOT coconut flakes. NOT coconut milk in powder. but : coconut water in powder (dehydrated coconut water). This is probably the only ingredients you would have to order online if you don’t live in the US/Australia. It’s a little tricky to get (i got mine on iherb.com but there’s also amazon).
If you’ve watch my MARATHON guide video (how I trained) you know that I’m a big fan of coconut water post workouts. It’s full of electrolytes and I felt 4x more hydrated then regular water. It also helped me tons with recovery. I wanted to include coconut water in my gels but obviously the liquid form wasn’t an option. The powder retains everything you need so it’s a more concentrated form. Make sure you get a natural one that only includes freeze-dried coconut water nothing else.
It is high in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium & phosphorus.
I add half a banana in my gel to have a more liquid consistency, plus it tastes great and gives good energy! A bit of vitamin B6 + B1 included. If you are sensitive to fiber 💩, you may not want to add the banana.
I added a squeeze of lemon juice (very tiniest drop) to prevent oxydation of my gel/nutrients which I made a day prior the race.
NATURAL & VEGAN ENDURANCE ENERGY GELS (GF, wholefoods)
You will need for : 200g finished product - around 3/4 gels - great total quantity for a marathon.
120g dates (weighted with pit)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 tablespoons coconut water in powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Half medium banana
Squeeze of lemon
Method (best made one day before or race day):
1. Pit the dates. if they are too dry make sure to hydrate them in boiling water for 20minutes till they soften. I love using Medjool dates or Mazafati dates.
2. Mash the dates with a fork on a plate. Add the peanut butter, salt, and coconut powder. Mix.
3. Finally add the banana and just a drop of lemon juice right away & mix again
4. Fill in your gel pockets right away, removing the max air you can to prevent oxidation. Store in the fridge.
My only regret with those gels is that I couldn’t find the adequate gel pocket to fit my running purse (which was very small). I wanted to buy a reusable compote pocket but they were too bulky. I searched everywhere to find the perfect reusable container. I finally found a company called Sinchies that did something great but they’re australian and the delivery was too long before my race..
So I used ziplocks (small and very smalls for jewelery) that I taped everywhere except 1 corner & ripped off with my teeth as I was running. I know.. it’s not eco-friendly but look. I tried my best. There’s definitely a huge business opportunity for reusable energy gel pouch !!!
How did my gel perform?
If I were to perfect my gel in terms of ‘mineral composition’ I would probably add a drop of guarana powder to include a bit more vitamin B1, and the gel was lacking a little bit in Vitamin E & Zinc (However i compensated with raw almonds). Honestly, i’m very satisfied with how my gel sustained my energy levels and I never felt lightheaded or deficient and never got any cramping. I also had some almonds & dried apricots on the go as well as additional coconut water powder. I also believe afterthought, we could reduce the sea salt to quarter teaspoon as research proven we don’t need as much sodium as we think we need (but better be safe than sorry!)
During the marathon I felt a sudden drop of energy around km15, I immediately took my first gel and had energy again about 1minute later feeling amazing till km25 (I was supposed to have a second gel but I forgot it at home, so I had jam). Then last gel at km 31.
Now here’s a little comparison with industrial gels and my own gel as well as nutrition facts for this gel.
This recipe (3 to 4 gel servings) is about half the price of gels you can buy.
If I add everything of this recipe (which makes 200grams of product, 3 to 4 gels), I spent : 1.5€ for organic dates + 0.10€ for half banana + 2€ for coconut water (includes shipping of product) + 0.18€ for the peanut butter (salt + lemon close to 0) = 3.78€ (1.26€ to 0,94€ per serve). The average gel price on the market is around 40€/kg (which is 8€ for 200g) or 2€/gel.
PLEASE NOTE :
If you decide to do my recipe for a race, try it before in your long runs during training. Never try a new food on race day
Don’t forget that a good nutrition & hydration throughout your preparation & life is key to healthy. If you eat plant-based & natural food you will have lot more minerals stored than someone who eats poorly!
I am vegan & used to eat a lot of fiber in my diet, this gel is relatively high in fiber compared to industrial gels; some people can’t process fiber well. You may have to remove the banana.
I find this gel tastes really good however it is a little salty so make sure you keep hydrated during the race, and have water soon or at the same time.
Suck on this gel throughout a little minute or two, not under 10 seconds. It’s still high in (natural) sugar and could cause a little spike in your blood feeling lightheaded (as any energy gels). This is also why I did not add any sweetener (not needed because you would crash after).
Well, that was a rather long post but I hope it was informative & helpful and I would love to have your opinion on my homemade gel if you try it out! Your feedback in comments under this post also helps other readers if the gel is worth trying or not! And don’t hesitate to share this recipe with your fav runner !!
I’ll link here some other links I made about my marathon journey, in case that helps:
How I trained, ate, recovered, begginers tips (video)
Thanks for reading!
Lots of love,