Competitive running or cycling is about focus. The finish line. Eye on the prize. No room for distraction. Training for a race is no different. But the body needs nutrients when in training, and if those nutrients are costly—and many of them are—that expense can prey on a runner's mind and put a hurt on the pocketbook. Some of the most popular supplements, sports products and energy boosters, if they're to be used as a training runner's fuel, require financial sacrifice.
But it doesn't have to be that way. With a little ingenuity you can train hard, with exactly the fuel you need, and not worry about what it's doing to your monthly budget.
The Do-it-Yourself StrategyBarbara Lewin is a registered and licensed dietitian and sports nutritionist who works with elite, Olympic-class athletes. She's well aware that eating right during training can be expensive, particularly if the athlete is spending money on convenience items and supplements.
"You can perform well with a minimum of supplements," Lewin said. "When I work with clients, I usually end up taking them off of their supplements, which is quite a savings. When it comes to eating economically, the goal is to include more plant-based nutrition, which can be less expensive. I have many clients who detest cooking, and we find ways of making it easy."
Lewin suggests that energy bars can be made at home, but said "keep in mind that energy bars are mainly for convenience. Bringing a piece of fruit along (on a training session) usually works just as well." Purchasing sports drinks in powder form is most economical. And there's no reason to drink them all the time; they're designed to be used during workouts when digestion is most compromised.
Chrissy Wellington Garner, a nutritionist and a former Division I athlete, also suggests that runners on a budget consider making their own training foods and drinks.
"There are so many do-it-yourself recipes that contain the same (useful) ingredients," she said. "Something like a whey protein mixture in water or milk is very healthy. And chocolate milk is the most steady recovery food out there, probably better than any product you can get on the market today."
Other Options for SavingsNot every athlete wants to take the time to concoct his or her own nutrients, however, and Dan Benardot, a nutritionist at Georgia State University, isn't so sure they need to in the first place.
"The most costly item an athlete of any kind or a runner specifically would need to purchase would be a powdered sports beverage," said Benardot, who was the nutritionist for U.S. marathoners in the 2004 Olympic Games, "and that's not very costly. The chronic utilization of that kind of beverage makes it cheaper and easier than to make it yourself. If you look at the cost of a sports beverage, and you look at the cost of buying all the stuff that goes into one, it's probably the same cost or less than making it yourself."