Q | What are some healthy alternatives to exercise chews and gels?
A | While commercial exercise chews and goos might be convenient for a quick shot of energy during endurance workouts, many varieties are filled with artificial ingredients and preservatives. If you prefer whole-foods options, you can grab dried fruit or make you own energy snacks to get a similar boost of electrolytes and carbs, says Lauren Antonucci, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City who works with athletes and the general population.
Antonucci’s clients often choose homemade fruit leather or energy bars featuring ingredients such as dried fruit, oats, fruit juice, honey, and molasses.
Even a handful of raisins can be helpful. A 2012 University of California–Davis study found that both raisins and chews improved running performance compared with drinking only water, and that the participants’ performance was similar between the raisins and chews.
While not everyone needs the extra fuel — especially during shorter, less intense exercise sessions — quick-digesting supplemental snacks can be useful for athletes participating in endurance sports, says Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, a sports dietitian and nine-time Ironman finisher based in Greenville, S.C.
If you’re opting for a commercial product, she suggests reading ingredient lists and selecting natural products when possible. Prefer to make your own? Try the fruit leather recipe below.