If you’re just starting a training regimen or upping your miles, you’re probably wondering how to fuel your runs.

It may seem like a cop out, but the best answer is this: You’ll figure it out by trial and error.

There are all kinds of trail mixes and high-energy bars, gels and drinks to help get you where you’re going. These efficient foods are designed to promote and sustain energy and provide you with essential nutrients that may be lost during physical activity.

Which types of energy food are right for you?

To decide, consider the following:

  1. How strenuous is your activity?
    The harder your body has to work, the more nutrients it loses. You might grab an energy bar.
  2. How long is your activity?
    Can’t take a break for hours on end, you might try an energy gel or energy drink.
  3. How important is convenience?
    How easily can you carry energy supplements? Are you concerned with weight or space? Do you have time to take breaks and properly digest an energy snack? Are you just looking for a quick refuel or are you replenishing yourself after the activity is completed?
  4. Do you have special diet needs or restrictions?
    If you’re on a low-fat diet, you might choose an energy drink. Do you have a high metabolism and burn lots of calories? You might stick to energy bars.

Combining foods
If you choose a mix of bars, gels and drinks, drink plenty of water to help ward off an upset stomach and to keep you well hydrated.

Nutritional contents
Consider the following nutritional information when choosing between bars, gels and sport energy drinks.

Calories
Most energy bars, gels and drinks are relatively low in calories.

Fat
Most energy foods are relatively low in fats.

Carbohydrates
This is your main energy source, so the higher the level of activity and duration, the more carbohydrates you need.

Protein
Great for helping your body rebuild tissues and recover after exercise/activity.

Sodium
More commonly known as electrolytes, sodium chloride, citrate, selenite, molybdate, benzoate and/or bicarbonate are essential in metabolizing carbohydrates for the proper functioning of muscles and to help keep you hydrated.

Potassium
Monopotassium phosphate, potassium citrate, L-lactate, dipotassium phosphate and/or potassium iodide are components of electrolytes and are essential in metabolizing carbohydrates for the proper functioning of muscles and to help keep you hydrated.

Vitamins and minerals
Your body burns vitamins and minerals through exercise and activity, so the more of these a product has to offer, the better. In general, energy bars have the highest number of vitamins and minerals overall.

Amino acid blends
Leucine, valine and isoleucine are often added to gels. Basically they are proteins which are broken down and used by the body to help construct muscles and keep them in good shape.

Watch out for added ingredients
If you’re caffeine-sensitive, watch out for chocolate and mocha-type flavors in all products. Also, ingredients like guarana, from the herb Guaranis, can contain up to 7% guaranine (just like caffeine), as compared to a cup of coffee which contains 2%.

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