DURING SPORT – ULTRA SNACKS

Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred fuel, used to power our muscles, brain and central nervous system. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles and when we exercise, these stores begin to deplete. But we can easily refuel again when we eat after a workout.

However, once you start running for longer than 90min, you need to start topping up your carbohydrate stores while exercising or you will begin to have less energy, get muscle fatigue and become less mentally alert. Carry on without refuelling and you will ‘bonk’ or experience ‘hitting the wall’, when you are absolutely spent and cannot go on.

But what should you eat? Some runners rely on gels, sweets and energy drinks but when that’s not enough to keep you going you need some real food. The following recipes have been created with this in mind. They are all high in carbohydrate and low in fat and fibre to get the energy in without causing gastrointestinal issues.

Don’t forget that if you are going to eat on the run you need to train your gut as much as your legs. And crucially, stick to whatever works for you (not anybody else) and never try anything new on race day.


Banana flapjacks
These can be wrapped and tucked into a pocket or backpack and are perfect for eating on the run.

Makes one 20cm square baking tin (around 10-15 bars)
Ingredients:
2 bananas (the riper, the better)
100ml skimmed milk* (see below)
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
180g oats
50g sultanas
25g dried bananas
25g banana chips
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. Preheat an oven to 180˚C and lightly grease a 20cm square baking tin or line with parchment paper.
  2. Place the bananas in a large bowl and mash them with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until fully blended.
  3. Press into the bottom of the baking tin and bake for 30 min until golden. Wait to cool before cutting into bars.

*This recipe is very versatile and you can choose to make a softer or crunchier version depending on your own preference. I think the soft version is easier to digest but if you prefer a crunchier texture simply reduce the milk by half or omit it entirely.


PB and banana ultra bars
These bars will help you keep going when you are running >2 ½ hrs. They have a good mix of carbs to refuel you with energy while the protein may help to minimise muscle loss. But best of all, they are easy to pack and delicious to eat.  

Makes one 20cm square baking tin (around 10-15 bars)
Ingredients:
2 bananas (the riper, the better)
50ml skimmed milk
125g peanut butter (preferably 100% peanuts)
2 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
180g oats
50g sultanas
25g dried bananas, chopped
50g dried dates, chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. Preheat an oven to 180˚C and lightly grease a 20cm square baking tin or line with parchment paper.
  2. Place the bananas in a large bowl and mash them with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until fully blended.
  3. Press into the bottom of the baking tin and bake for around 20 min or until golden. Wait to cool before cutting into bars.

Runner’s malt loaf
Slice and wrap when you are going to need an extra boost on a long run. But even if you are not running it still makes a nice treat topped with a little spread alongside a cuppa.

Makes 1 loaf
Ingredients:
Margarine or sunflower oil for greasing
75ml hot black tea
80g malt extract, plus extra for glazing
40g dark muscovado sugar
150g mixed dried fruit (use anything you have to hand including peel)
1 large egg
125g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 130°C. Grease a loaf tin and line it with baking parchment.
  2. Pour the hot tea into a mixing bowl. Add the malt extract, sugar and dried fruit and mix well. Beat the eggs briefly in a small bowl and then add.
  3. Begin to stir in the flour then add the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda until just mixed. Pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 50 mins until firm and well risen. While it’s still warm, brush with a little more malt to glaze and leave to fully cool before slicing.

Ultra pretzels
These pretzels really hit the spot when you need a salty fix to keep you running. As a Registered Nutritionist, I would not normally include such a salty recipe in my repertoire and I always opt for more nutritious wholewheat flour over plain. However, running an ultra is a bit of a beast and requires fuel that will give you energy, help to replace lost electrolytes and will not cause gastrointestinal issues and this recipe ticks all three boxes. Best of all, they taste amazing!

Makes 12
Ingredients
360ml warm water
7g fast active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
30g butter, melted and slightly cool
570g plain flour plus extra for kneading/rolling
Coarse salt for sprinkling
Bicarb of soda bath
100g bicarbonate of soda
2L water

Method:

  1. Place the water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix until combined. Add the yeast and let rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Add flour and butter and mix thoroughly until a dough forms. Knead the dough on a floured countertop or use a dough hook to knead for 5 min or until it is no longer sticky. Add a little more flour if needed.
  3. Cover the dough and leave it to rest for 10min while you prepare the bicarbonate of soda bath.
  4. Preheat an oven to 200°C and line two baking sheets with silicone mats or greased parchment. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the water in a large pot and heat on high.
  5. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each of them into thin ropes roughly around 1½ cm in diameter and 35cm in length. Form a circle with each piece and cross over the ends to make a pretzel shape. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
  1. Bring the bicarb bath to a rolling boil and carefully add a maximum of 2 pretzels at a time to the pot. After 30secs remove the pretzels, shaking of the excess water and place onto the baking sheets. Shake the coarse salt on top and repeat with the rest of the pretzels.
  2. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Let sit for a couple of minutes before removing and placing on a rack to cool slightly before serving. Wait to cool completely before storing or packing. Use parchment paper to prevent any sticking.

Carrot and butter bean soup
This soup takes its inspiration from an amazing meal eaten at the Abriachan Eco-Campsite & Café while running 120km of the Great Glen Way in the Scottish Highlands.

Serves 4 big bowls or 6 small
Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1.2L vegetable stock
1kg carrots, grated
Zest and juice from 1 orange (or 2 satsumas)
2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
Cracked black pepper to serve

Method:

  1. Heat a large soup pot on medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onion and celery and stir in. Turn down the heat to low and let sizzle for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften.
  2. Stir in the vegetable stock and increase the heat. Take a small handful of the grated carrots and put aside. Add the remaining grated carrots to the stock and heat until gently bubbling.
  3. Cover the pot and let cook for 7-10 minutes until the carrots are soft. Remove from the heat and use a stick blender or food processer to blend until smooth.
  4. Return to the pot and heat again on medium. Add the orange zest and juice, drained butter beans, reserved handful of grated carrots and herbs. Cover and let bubble until the carrot has softened, around 7-10min and taste for seasoning. If you prefer a thinner soup simply add more stock. Serve at once with some oatcakes and a little cheese or with your favourite bread for dipping.