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Endurance Nutrition: Man-Made or Au Naturel?


Posted by Cags R under Nutrition on 18 February 2014 at 12:00 AM

There comes a certain point in all endurance sports where you have to start thinking about your nutrition on-the-go. Whether it's a banana in your cycle jersey pocket or a gel on your race belt, getting sugar and salts into your system is crucial for all endurance athletes.

Coconut water and isotonic sports drinks now sit side-by-side on store shelves, allowing athletes a much wider variety of choice. There is no longer a 'one-size fits all' approach when it comes to sports nutrition, with many top athletes performing at their peak on diets which would have previously been ruled out as a lifestyle choice a serious athlete couldn't afford to make. 

Finding the right nutrition for your lifestyle and your sport can be tough, but now, more than ever, sportspeople are able to make fewer compromises and finding the best diet for them.

Just look at endurance nutrition; so many different options are now available to the mass participants of marathons and distance events, it's not just for the elites anymore! Choosing your energy source can be a minefield, but to help, here are Janna C's tips on how to find the right gel for you:

Janna C- Try gels in training first - that's the Golden Rule for anything really. There are lots of types, consistencies, flavours and mixtures.

- Be careful of ones with caffeine if you are sensitive to it, and some have double (personally I can't use those safely).

- Find the balance between eating too much before a race and not enough; it's tricky, everyone is different.

- What you eat the night before makes a difference too. And remember to be hydrated!

- Once you have a gel, you generally need to keep taking them every 45-60 mins.

Oh, and one last thing: NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!! - That's just asking for trouble!

Fruit is an excellent, quick source of sugars (that's why bananas were chosen as the favorite natural energy source by Tribesports members!) but there is one downside to training with fresh fruit: storage. Sure, running along with a banana in-hand is doable, but if you're hitting longer distances, you'll be wishing that the natural energy could come in slightly more convenient packaging... 

Cue natural gels and energy bars sweeping the fitness market. As we become more conscious of nutrition, the sports nutrition market is catering for a plethora of different dietary lifestyles; vegan, gluten free, paleo - you name it, there's a product for it!

Different energy optionsSpot the difference: 2 of these are all-natural energy bar products and one is a man-made isotonic gel.

Convenience and palatability are the two things most looked for in endurance nutrition, finding a product with the perfect balance between the two is every endurance athlete's dream! An energy source which is lightweight can come with the downside of requiring a lot of fluids to help digest it, whereas self-sufficient gels (can be taken without water) may be a little bulkier bulkier to carry. Natural energy bars, in turn, must find ways to pack the same level of energy and salts into a similarly small package as the man-made gels. This has resulted in the emergence of 'hybrid' products, taking organic products and adding extra electrolytes to give the energy source an extra kick!

With the world of nutritional choice on your doorstep (or at least you can order online!) one of the first ways to start finding the best endurance nutrition is to ask yourself: "Do I want Man-Made or Au Naturel?"

Answer below and share your favorite nutrition tips in the Sports Nutrition Tribe.

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    I've tried a few gels and power bars etc but my current favourites are 9-bars. Tasty, natural and easy to digest.

    Heather J encouraged this.


    I've always been wary of gels but I've signed up for my first marathon so I think I'm going to have to start investigating them.

    Jonathan H and Heather J encouraged this.


    Very timely... Just about to start experimenting... My long runs are getting a bit long to do without now

    Cags R and Heather J encouraged this.


    As much as I would like to stick with all natural, I've had the best results with gel for my long runs or races. GU or Cliff, Hammer Nutrition isn't bad either,

    Heather J encouraged this.


    I like to eat lots of rice and chicken the night before a long run. If I have gels, I add them to my water bottle, it stretches them out, and makes it less of a risk in digestion. Will need to take some solid things with me for my first marathon though I think-I'll prob go for cereal bars or something similar there.

    Heather J encouraged this.


    Interesting article, and I wonder if another consideration is if you are in the endurance distance for getting a fast time or to participate or to get from a to b. In an event using gels can save time and ensure fast access and absorption of nutrients. Sometimes if you are out running-cycling long distances having real food ie dried fruit or a small sandwich (sometimes I like to stop for a pie:)) is just what you need to help move on ahead.

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