Power Up

Any sports nutritionist would agree: Fueling your muscles with the right foods can mean the difference between a great run and a painful one. These days there's no shortage of gels, bars, drinks and gear promising to deliver what your body needs. But with more choices comes the headache of trying to separate the science from the sales pitch. That's why Women's Running has done the work for you, hunting down the most innovative sports nutrition items on the market. Grab one of these products to stay fueled and energized.

Gu Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Gel

After several years of testing on lab rats such as 2008 Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy Boulet and world-champion triathlete Wendy Ingraham, the team at GU has perfected its latest gel creation: Roctane. The electrolyte-heavy gel offers 35 milligrams of perk-you-up caffeine plus ingredients like branched chain amino acids and citrates, which have been credited with reducing acid buildup and muscle soreness. Designed for long endurance runs, Roctane should be consumed once an hour during exercise. $3 for 1.1-ounce packet, guenergy.com

YouBar

It may have been Burger King that coined "Have it your way," but Ava Bise and her son, marathoner Anthony Flynn, are putting a healthy spin on it. They created an online build-an-energy-bar service that lets you choose from nearly 50 different ingredients such as walnuts, almond butter and goji berries. Create yours online and then submit it.

They--along with their 10 employees--then go to work making the bars, packaging them with nutritional facts and a personalized bar name. (We like "Runners Rock!") Order honey or brown rice syrup for simple carbs on your run or choose whey protein for a great post-run recovery bar to help mend worn muscles. Prefer hemp or soy protein to whey? No problem. They take special requests and rustle up custom protein-powder mixes as well. 13 bars for $39, youbars.com

GoLite HydroSprint  

Weighing in at a measly 11 ounces and ergonomically designed for women's hips, the GoLite HydroSprint lets you keep a water bottle and gel flask (both included with purchase) within easy reach. This no-bounce, well-ventilated waist bag features bungee cords that allow you to adjust how closely it hugs your body and two zip, side pockets--one with an exit hole for earphone wires--that provide plenty of space to stash your stuff. $40, golite.com

HydraPak Gel-Bot Run

Sure, a good gel can give you a boost during a run, but those sticky empties and neon goo that inevitably ends up on your hands or T-shirt can be distracting. Enter the no-mess Gel-Bot Run. This smart water bottle has an inner chamber that holds two packs of energy gel with the remainder of the 24-ounce bottle dedicated to water. To access the gel, keep the valve down and suck out the gel; pull the valve up for water. Plus, it comes with a handy strap that secures the bottle to your hand. $15, gel-bot.com

Luna Sport Electrolyte Splash

Research is clear that during prolonged aerobic activity, supplying your laboring muscles with a shot of simple carbohydrates can ramp up performance. So the next time you're running for an hour or more, add this organic offering from Luna to your bottle. With only 80 calories per serving, a scoop of pink grapefruit or lime-ade powder gives your muscles the sugar they need to keep going, beneficial electrolytes such as sodium and several vitamins and minerals. $15 for 18-serving canister, lunabar.com  

Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer

Add a scoop or two of this powder to your post-run smoothie for a nutritional windfall. Formulated by vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, this bounty of muscle-mending vegetarian protein (26 grams per serving) is a great source of magnesium, iron, calcium and vitamin D--vitamins and minerals commonly deficient in female runners. Plus, there are 15 grams of fiber, digestive enzymes, essential omega fats, pre- and probiotics for digestive health, and a mixed-berry complex chock-full of antioxidants. Find the powder in three delicious flavors: natural, berry and chocolate. $45 for a 36-ounce tub, myvega.com

Zico Coconut Water

Translucent coconut water-- gleaned from young coconuts before they have developed "milk"--has been used as an IV fluid in rural tropical areas because it possesses a very similar electrolyte profile to blood. Now it's been dubbed "nature's sports drink" because of this electrolyte advantage, which includes more potassium than a banana and most man-made sport drinks--and is lower in sugar and calories. Slightly tangy, coconut water provides a refreshing way to rehydrate following a run. Now available in handy eco-friendly cartons at many health food stores, you don't have to hop on a flight to the tropics to get your fix. $2 for 11-ounce carton, zico.com


Matthew Kadey is a Canada-based dietitian and writer. Find him at wellfedman.com.

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