Your mid-run snack doesn't have to come from a foil package or a plastic bottle. While processed gels, bars and drinks can provide the energy you need to power through your workout, their mile-long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients may give organic-minded runners pause. Fear not, Nature Girl, experts agree it's possible to fuel effectively with natural alternatives.
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"Whole foods give you a complex matrix of nutrients and compounds that go beyond what heavily processed products can provide," says sports dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD. "These can enhance performance and recovery, and contribute to overall health and disease prevention."
Try sipping or noshing on the following treats to get the nutrients your body craves without any of the additives.
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It's crucial to pack enough liquid to hydrate properly during a run. Blatner recommends aiming for 8 ounces every 15 minutes for a run lasting one hour or more. Water is the ultimate natural option, but for long runs on hot days, you'll need a beverage that contains carbohydrates and electrolytes (specifically sodium and potassium).
At 50 calories per cup, this natural drink will fuel you with 9 g of carbohydrates, as well as plenty of potassium (up to 20 times that of an average sports drink). Mix coconut water with a pinch of sea salt to ensure your cells are soaking up the sodium they need to stay hydrated.
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Sports dietitian Karen Reznik Dolins, RD, CSSD, suggests combining one-part fresh-squeezed orange juice with one-part water. The citrus juice provides potassium while the water dilutes the juice to prevent stomach cramps. Add a bit of salt for sodium, and you're good to go.
During a run lasting 60 minutes or more, you need about 7 to 15 g of carbohydrates every 15 minutes, says Blatner. Reach for simple, easy-to-digest carbs for a quick energy boost that won't lead to tummy troubles. If you're not sipping an electrolyte-filled sports drink, make sure your eats contain sodium as well.