Unlike the controlled conditions of treadmill running, outdoor trail running is chock full of unforeseeable challenges. From uneven terrain daring you to trip to unpredictable weather, many factors are out of your control. However, one thing a runner can control is how they fuel themselves before, during and after their run.
The famous phrase, “it’s what’s on the inside that matters,” rings true, especially as eating the right foods on your run promotes your body’s performance, making you impervious to any daunting outdoor conditions. To feel your best on the trail, consider these tips on the best snacks to bring along for the trail running journey.
In Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Olympian restaurant of choice was, surprisingly, McDonald’s. Held in contempt by anyone health-focused due to its reputation for excessive grease and questionable sanitation, McDonald’s had a perpetually long line, consisting solely of Olympic athletes.
However, there was a logical explanation. In a foreign country where many of the athletes were unacquainted with the cuisine, McDonald’s was a familiar option whose food they knew well.
What we can learn from this is not necessarily to pig out on whatever fast food you’re comfortable with but rather opt for familiar food for your run. Whether that food is pretzels, chips, an orange or a specific energy chew, it’s essential to choose what works for you. Above all, you should enjoy your run, so choose a snack you and your body loves, too.
Though fiber is an essential nutrient, it may not be best to go all out before a run; when using fiber to fuel you, you should consume it in moderation.
Local running coach and exercise student Alyssa Nicole advises eating a meal low in fiber the night before your run. This is because fiber is a carbohydrate that the body cannot fully digest, so it comes out as waste. So, eating a high-fiber snack during your run may be disruptive, if you know what I mean…
When in doubt, the holy trinity of trail snacks of bananas, dates and peanut butter is always a good default for trail snacks.
Jesse Ruiz, a running coach for the Austin Running Club and an avid trail runner himself, says his favorite on-the-trail snack is bananas. Conveniently packaged in their own biodegradable wrapper, bananas are a great trail snack because they’re easily digestible and high on the glycemic index, meaning they’ll provide a welcomed energy boost.
Ruiz also says a runner should opt for a snack high in carbohydrates and low in fat and fiber. Another great option for this equation of macronutrients is dates, which are extremely calorically dense; they pack a lot of carbohydrates in their small forms, which, if you didn’t know, strongly resemble the taste of caramel!
Lastly, peanut butter is great fuel as it provides the boost of protein that bananas and dates lack. Plus, protein encourages endurance, something you’ll definitely need on a long trail run.
Along with the most basic athletic advice of all time (which is to stay hydrated), it’s also important to replenish your electrolytes and sodium. A runner depletes these reserves through sweating, so including a salty snack, such as pretzels or pickle juice, ensures that these resources are replaced. In fact, Ruiz says some runners even carry salt tabs to either suck on or add to their water.
For trail runners, the challenges they face on their run account for much of the thrill. However, snacks can be a source of comfort that can also help you feel your best on your run. So, to ensure that you put your best foot forward, for the entirety of your run, be sure to remember these tips about the best snacks on the trail.