The Protein Ball Co. Review

The Protein Ball Co. are a UK based company producing healthy, high protein snacks using natural ingredients. Neatly packaged in a range of six interesting flavours (I like the Goji and Coconut best!) each 45g bag contains six bite size balls. They are all gluten free and vegetarian with a couple of vegan choices too.

Protein Ball Co.

six interesting flavours

As well as being high in protein they also contain a decent amount of carbohydrate; a 45g bag of Lemon & Pistachio balls contains 187 kcal for example.

Protein Ball calorific content

plenty of calories to fuel long runs

This means that on long events like Ultra races or 24 hour Rounds such as the Bob Graham these would be ideal “hill food”. They are much more palatable than sickly sweet gels and satisfy your hunger unlike a gel. The high protein content also means that they make a great snack immediately after a hard training session or race or following a long run.

Protein Ball Co. each bag contains 6 tasty little balls

each bag contains 6 tasty little balls

At £1.99 for a 45g bag they aren’t particularly cheap and at the moment they aren’t available in supermarkets although they can be found in Holland & Barrett and also purchased online. So if you fancy something healthy, tasty and made in the UK to fuel your running these bite sized little balls are worth a try.

For more details and to find a stockist visit the Protein Ball Co.

fell running guide

Winter Hydration for Runners

We all know that fell running in hot weather is hard work; we heat up, we sweat and need to rehydrate.  But what about in winter?

It’s just as important to stay properly hydrated whatever the weather but in winter when it’s cold we don’t have the same psychological and physiological triggers telling us to drink. In cold, dry weather sweat evaporates quickly and so we might not notice how much we are sweating and because we don’t feel hot there is less urge to drink.  Some scientific studies have also shown that in cold weather as the body shuts the blood supply to its periphery, the urge to drink is reduced.  There’s also a phenomena known as cold diuresis where the body increases the production of urine as it gets cold which in turn can increase the risk of dehydration.

In cold, dry conditions the air that is breathed in gets warmed and humidified during respiration so every breath out robs the body of a tiny bit of water.  This all adds up on long runs, especially when you’re breathing hard.

running in cold, dry weather

running in cold, dry weather

It doesn’t need to be hot to make you sweat; if you’ve ever run in the rain wearing a waterproof jacket and complained that it’s leaking, that’s actually sweat that hasn’t been able to evaporate.  Likewise when you take your backpack off you’ve probably noticed a “sweaty back” even on a cold, winter day.  Again this is a sign of how much fluid we lose even in lower temperatures.  Extreme dehydration is dangerous but even in the early stages it has a detrimental effect on performance, causing you to slow down and increasing the feeling of fatigue.

So it is apparent that drinking during your longer winter runs is just as important as it is in summer.  I like to use Nuun electrolyte replacement tablets for both summer and winter hydration.  The tablets dissolve quickly and are easy to break in two to fit into narrower necked hydration bladders.  They come in a range of flavours that aren’t too overpowering and unlike high sugar carbohydrate drinks aren’t sickly sweet.  The added electrolytes are important, especially for very long runs and are another reason why I prefer them to carbohydrate only drinks.

Nuun (pronounced Noon) tablets

Nuun (pronounced Noon) tablets

There are several ways to carry your drink, each has advantages and disadvantages and different people have different preferences.  I like to use a bladder in a backpack so that I can keep sipping with minimal disruption and because there is no air in the bladder the contents don’t slosh around as it empties.

bladder and hose combination

bladder and hose combination allows frequent sips

However the downside of this is if you plan to refill the bladder during your run (as in an Ultra distance event) it can be a tricky and time consuming process, particularly with a narrow necked bladder.  In this case a wide necked plastic bottle might be better as it will be much easier to access and quicker to refill.  Some rucksacks are designed to carry bottles on the front shoulder straps which are easy to use, but for me, annoying when they start to slosh around when half full.  I also find them a bit heavy and uncomfortable when full.

backpack with bottle holder

backpack with bottle holder, prone to sloshing!

Alternatively you could use a bumbag designed to hold a water bottle.  You need to either reach behind you or more realistically spin the bag round to remove and replace the water bottle.  I don’t really like this method if I’m likely to be running fast as I find that it makes the bumbag more prone to bouncing up and down.

inov-8 bumbag

bumbag with water bottle, not easy to reach

For some shorter runs or races when I only want to take a small amount of drink I will reuse a baby food sachet, cleaned and then filled with my Nuun drink.  Carried in my bumbag this gives a few mouthfuls of liquid, just enough to get me round.

reusing a baby food sachet filled with drink

reusing a baby food sachet filled with electrolyte drink

You could even run carrying a water bottle in your hand.  There are bottles designed specifically for this but for me it is a big No No for a number of reasons:  It disrupts your running style, it is uncomfortable, it hinders you from using your hands to do anything else (e.g. check your map, open a gel etc).  I think that if your run is short enough that carrying a bottle won’t annoy you then it is short enough not to need a drink.  If it’s long enough that you will need a drink then find a more efficient way of carrying it and let your hands swing freely in an efficient running style!

hand held water bottle

running whilst holding a water bottle – why?

I always ensure that I am fully hydrated before a long run or race in order to delay the onset of dehydration and then sip frequently during the run.  I find that little and often is better than glugging loads down at once.

So whatever your chosen method of carrying a drink, remember that rehydrating on your longer runs is important even in winter.  Using electrolyte replacement tablets such as Nuun in your drink is an effective way of preventing dehydration and the associated decrease in performance.

Bearing that in mind you can get out and enjoy your trail and fell running this winter – happy hydrated running!

 

Mule Bar Energy Products

Fell running over longer distances burns a lot of calories.

On long training runs where I’m happy to slow down or stop for a moment I prefer to eat something solid rather than take a gel.  There are plenty of energy bars on the market, some of which are quite pleasant but for the most part they cater for people with a sweet tooth.  So I was interested to see that Mule Bar had brought out an energy bar with a difference – containing Garam Masala and Cayenne Pepper!

Mule Bar Eastern Express

Eastern Express, spicy not sweet

Made in Great Britain, the Eastern Express energy bar contains a mix of natural ingredients including cashews, almonds, pistachios and various seeds, spiced up to give it a unique oriental flavour.  The 56g bar provides 265 calories all packed into a compostable wrapper – not that you should drop it on the hillside mind!

Eastern Express Mule Bar

not your average energy bar ingredients

Even though I knew the ingredients, psychologically my senses were expecting something sweet and it was odd to get a Bombay Mix type scent just before biting into it!  I’d say the taste is subtle rather than strong so it’s not going to blow your socks off if you don’t like hot spices.  It’s definitely worth a try as a change from overly sweet energy bars.

For me, consuming energy gels is a necessity rather than a pleasure.  I use them on long races where chewing and breathing whilst trying to continue running at a decent pace is likely to lead to inhaling more than just air!  I have also used them on endurance events such as the High Peak Marathon and the Paddy Buckley Round but to be honest the sickly sweet taste isn’t to my liking.  So I was keen to try a gel that might not leave me with that sticky, sweet after-taste.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually liked the taste of Mule Bar’s Salted Caramel gel.  Made with natural, organic ingredients the sweetness is counteracted by the saltiness (must be those Pink Himalayan salt crystals!)

Mule Bar salted caramel gel

108 calories per 37g sachet

The gels are designed to be taken with water although they are not as thick as some other gels and to be honest I just consumed one on its own half way into a two and a half hour run with no ill effects.  The gel contains electrolyte too as well as carbohydrate so will be a bonus in hot weather or for runners who tend to sweat.

fell running with energy gel

putting it to the test on a long run

So if you’ve had enough of sickly sweet energy products on your long fell runs or races and fancy something a little different you might want to try Mule Bars’ interesting new lines.

Bounce Energy Balls

Add some Bounce to your bum-bag!

More food for thought in regards to fuelling your running.  I have recently discovered Bounce Energy Balls, another healthy way to get the carbohydrate and protein for energy and repair that fell running demands.  A good source of unsaturated fat they also contain a range of vitamins and minerals.

Bounce Energy Balls

Bounce Balls come in a range of colours!

The balls come in an interesting range of protein packed flavours each in an individual wrapper.  At 42g each they provide two or three decent sized mouthfuls of tasty snack, ideal for halfway round your long run or for instant refuelling as soon as you finish.

Bounce Balls

post run recovery

I use Spirulina powder in my diet which I mix with other foods to mask its rather unpalatable smell and powdery taste, so I was particularly interested in the Spirulina & Ginseng balls hoping that they would be more tasty than they sounded!  I wasn’t disappointed as although they look unusual they taste good.

Spirulina & Ginseng Bounce

Spirulina & Ginseng – looks odd, tastes good!

Bounce Balls are also gluten free, good news for runners with wheat intolerance.  Typical nutrition information for a single 42g ball (Cashew and Pecan) is:

Energy – 180 kcal
Protein – 4g
Carbohydrate – 22g (9g sugars)
Fat – 9g (1g saturated)
Sodium – 0.095g

So if you’re looking for some wholesome, tasty snacks to fuel your running – put some Bounce Balls in your bum-bag!

put some Bounce in your bum bag!

put some Bounce in your bum bag!

Mule Fuel

Mule Bar Review

Always on the look out for products to fuel my running and recovery I recently came across Mule Bar products.  Based in the UK (which I like) they produce a range of items including energy bars, protein bars and energy gels.  Using natural, healthy ingredients the Mule Bar range is intended to provide the intended nutrition whilst tasting good.

Mule Bar range

Mule Fuel

The energy bars come in a range of seven interesting flavours such as Pinacolada, Summer Pudding and Liquorice Allsports! and include some organic and Fairtrade versions.  I found these bars tasty and looked forward to my long runs so that I had a proper excuse to try them out.  Mule Bar also do their bit for the environment by using compostable wrappers and donating 1% to the planet

For recovery they produce a high protein bar in chocolate and date or chocolate and banana flavours, both of which are pleasant tasting and are great straight after a long run or hard training session.

Mule Bar gels again come in an interesting range of flavours, two of which are standard non caffeinated plus one containing 50mg of caffeine.  Then there is the daddy: the Cafe Cortado gel with a kicking 100mg of caffeine.  This caught me out somewhat as the strong coffee flavour, thick gel and high caffeine wasn’t really what I wanted a couple of hours into a mountain run on a hot day.  However I think that it would be ideal in other situations such as during the overnight low points on 24 hour rounds such as the Bob Graham or during the wee small hours on the High Peak Marathon.  As with many gels these are best taken with a small amount of liquid to wash them down and aid digestion.

Mule Bar energy gel

interesting flavours!

So if you’re after a tasty, ethical energy product in a range of interesting natural flavours and which is made by a Britain company then give Mule Bar a try.

Nourish Me Now

Recovery is an important aspect of training for anyone taking fell running seriously.

Races, hard training sessions and long runs all require proper nutrition to aid recovery. Whilst going for a pint is a sociable way of rounding off your race there is a better strategy! It is thought that consuming a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein mix within the first half hour after exercise is the optimum way of refuelling.

There are plenty of sports drinks on the market that will allow you to do this, I have recently discovered one that is a little bit different.

Nourish Me Now drink

interesting flavours

nourish me now ingredients

high protein and carbohydrate content

Nourish Me Now is a drink made with natural ingredients and interesting flavours (the blackcurrant, white tea and vanilla is particularly nice!) Unlike some other drinks it isn’t thick and doesn’t taste too sweet and so is quite refreshing and thirst quenching.

Another thing I like about Nourish Me Now is that it is made in Sheffield by a small business with a background in sport and who really believe in their product.

So after your next hard run why not try a proper recovery drink… before you go to the pub!

Baby Food for Distance Runners?

Do you use energy gels for your long distances runs and races?

I do but I tend to find them a little too sweet and sickly.  I use Science in Sport gels and like the fact that they can be taken without a drink making them easy to swallow; particularly important when racing as I don’t like chewing things when I’m breathing hard.  However, sometimes I would prefer something that gave me the energy but with a less sugary taste. Also some people find that gels have a tendency to upset their stomach – ever seen people disappearing into the bushes or diving behind a wall on a long race? Not ideal is it!

So, is there an alternative to energy gels?

One thing that I have found to work quite well is baby food!  Yes those little pouches of mushed up food that I always thought must taste disgusting.  Well a little bit of trial and error with the flavours has led me to one that is actually quite pleasant!

baby food for runners

baby food for runners!

I have tried several brands and prefer Ella’s Kitchen; I particularly like the mango, yoghurt and rice baby brekkie. The mix of fruit and yoghurt gives a tangy rather than sweet taste and the rice means that is slightly thicker than a SiS gel (which is designed to be taken without water) although they are still easy to swallow. It has no added sugar and the 100g pouch contains 112 kcal compared to 87 kcal in a 60ml gel.  They cost around £1, the same as a gel and the twist top means that you can reseal the pouch if you don’t want to swallow it all in one go.  This also prevents the remnants leaking out into your bag when you’ve finished it.

baby food for runners

baby food: 112 calories and 20g of carbohydrate

SiS gel

Gel: 87 calories and 22g of carbohydrate

I use baby food as fuel on long training runs and also on very long races such as the High Peak Marathon whilst on both the Paddy Buckley and Ramsay rounds I carried baby food pouches as an essential part of my nutrition strategy. There are other flavours and other brands, I suggest you check which has the most calories per 100g.

High Peak Marathon equipment

essentials for the High Peak Marathon include baby food pouches

I put the baby food to the test on a long run, you can see what I found in the video.  Before you go though, a quick word of warning – give the fish pie and mashed potato pouches a miss – YUK!!

 

Click the logo to see what else I do:

fell running guide

Thought for Food

What is the best thing for a runner to eat during a long run?

Good question, and one to which there is no best answer.  However there are certain things that work for me and I’m happy to share my thoughts.
The basic science is that Carbohydrate is the body’s main fuel source for hard exercise.  This is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, however the body has only got enough stores to last for about 90 minutes of hard exercise.  So if your race or hard training run is going to take more than an hour and a half you are going to need to refill the tank as it were by eating carbohydrate rich food.  But with lots of choice of gels, energy bars and other food sources it can be hard to know what to use.
Fell Runners Favourite!
A lot of fell runners I know swear by jelly babies!  They are easy to chew / swallow and have a high carbohydrate content.  Whilst I have used them I find them too sweet and I prefer other types of jelly sweet. My current favourites are Tesco Cherry & Pomegranate Gummies.  These are more chewy but much less sickly than Jelly Babies whilst still having a high carbohydrate content.  I tend to look for sweets that contain fruit juice rather than just sugar such as the Gummies and Rowntrees Fruit Bottles.
Runners’ Fuel

There are also a number of specialist gels and bars on the market.  I use Science in Sport (SiS) isotonic gels.  These have the advantage that they can be taken without water whereas most others are designed to be washed down with a drink and thus diluted.  Some gels also contain caffeine although if I’m honest I haven’t noticed any difference between these and the non caffeinated ones.  The bars also come with and without caffeine and resemble a very chewy flapjack.  I tend not to use these as I find them difficult to swallow – they need a lot of chewing! – and it’s not ideal having a gob full of goo whilst trying to run fast!

The new kids on the block are Cliff Shot Bloks.  These are like the old fashioned squares of Rowntree’s jelly only slightly firmer.  They are easily palatable and not difficult to chew.  Although the packaging advises taking with water I have eaten them on their own with no ill effects.
Gels & Bars
As these products have been designed with the athlete in mind they are seen as “specialist” and with that comes the inevitable cost.  A single gel will cost £1, not a bank breaker on its own but if you are doing a high weekly training mileage, training for a long race for example such as the Ultra Tour of the Peak District, those pounds are going to add up.  So are there any cheaper alternatives?
I like to use Coconut bars, nice tasting with quite a high carbohydrate content and cheap (39 pence from Tesco).  Other options are School Bars, these are fruit concentrate bars, and Peanut Brittle.
Alternative Fuel

Whichever method of refuelling you choose you can check the carbohydrate content by reading the nutrition advice on the label.  Look for the value per 100 grams, that way you can compare like for like regardless of the weight of the packet.

My strategy is to use sweets and alternative bars when training.  Because I am not running as fast and can afford to stop for a few moments I am much less likely to inhale a peanut!  I save the expensive gels and Shot Bloks for races.  I might supplement the gels with a few sweets.  Make sure whatever you choose is easily accessible, I carry them in a side zip on my bumbag.  On a long run or race I will start snacking on the sweets after about an hour and take a gel after about 80 minutes of racing.  I try to time the gel consumption to a steep uphill section where I am likely to be going slow and thus find it easy to open my bumbag and scoff the gel – it’s much harder to do this at pace.  It takes about 10 minutes for the gel to take effect and the trick is to take the fuel on board before you feel the bonk.

Whatever fuel you use on the hill, please don’t drop the wrapper – including the little tab off the top of the gel.  Unfortunately empty gel packets are becoming a common site on some race routes.

I rarely take a drink with me unless I’m on a long run in hot weather.  Then I choose something like Tesco or Aldi’s own isotonic juice.  This is much cheaper than Lucozade / Powerade etc and it seems to work.
Cheap Isotonic Juice
So what about post race?  Well not only will you need to replace carbohydrate but protein as well.  This is essential to allow your body to rebuild and recover.  The general advice is to take on a carbo / protein mix straight after exercise.  I do this with Frijj milkshakes – the chocolate and fudge brownie ones are Dee-lish!  A cheaper alternative is Tesco Chocolate Milk, 2 for £2, better value but nowhere near as tasty!  I will also have a banana with the drink.
Post Race Food

As with any food, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, or just because it works for me it might not for you.  I know some people who react quite badly to certain gels whilst other people have no problem with them. The best thing to do is try a few different products and find what works best for you. And don’t use something on race day if you’ve never tried it beforehand – you don’t want to be diving into the bushes halfway through the race because your nutrition has given you the wrong type of runs!

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