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Nutrition for runners: race fuel and recovery drinks

The choices in race fuel and recovery drinks can be overwhelming. Here are a few of our favourites

Named Sport Photo by: Matt Stetson

One often overlooked aspect of training is how to fuel for longer efforts, such as the marathon or half-marathon, but adequate fuelling is crucial to performance. Here’s a selection of some of our favourite race fuelling products for your spring and fall endurance training.

Race fuel

Many runners find gels too sweet and chews too chewy; for them, Xact’s compact Energy fruit bars are the perfect alternative. With a smooth, jelly-like centre, they come in multiple fruit flavours (as well as maple and beet), taste great and make an excellent marathon or half-marathon fuel. Take one just before the race and every 45 minutes. Each bar has 100 calories and 25 g of carbohydrates; the blackcurrant flavour contains 50 mg of caffeine (from guarana extract), and the beet flavour has added electrolytes. Bars are lactose-free, gluten-free and vegan. BONUS: Xact is a Canadian company. $2.59 each
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Energy Chews Sport Fuel by Skratch Labs

Total Energy Strong Gels by NamedSport make great marathon, half-marathon or ultra fuel and are easy to consume on-course. These lemon-flavoured gels contain 30 g of carbohydrate, plus caffeine and electrolytes. Both products are gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan-friendly. Sport Gels are $2.25 each; Total Energy Sport Gels are $2.99 each

Gu Energy gels deliver a burst of motivation when you need it most. Each gel contains 22 g of carbs (7 g from sugar) and 125 mg of sodium. Most flavours also contain 20 mg of caffeine. (Gu Roctane gels pack a bigger jolt, with 35 mg of caffeine.) $2.65 each
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Energy Chews Sport Fuel by Skratch Labs, which are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan, will help get you to the finish line in one piece without bonking. The 50-g packets, which contain 19 g of carbs (13 g from sugar) are a little bulkier than a gel (you’re supposed to consume one packet per hour), but could be a great alternative for folks who dislike gels. They come in five flavours; the blueberry and sour cherry flavours have 25 mg of caffeine. $33 for a box of 10 packets or $3.29 per single serving
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Jar with Xact protein waffers and Energybars by NamedSport

Good news for Gu Energy fans, there’s a new raspberry lemonade flavour, and it comes with a charitable benefit—10 per cent of proceeds from sales will be donated to the Running on Native Lands initiative by Virginia-based Rising Hearts. Gu Energy also makes drink tabs, energy chews and stroopwafels. (Gu Energy has a new gel-packet recycling program in partnership with TerraCycle.) About $51 for a box of 24 gels, or $2.10 each

Post-long-run snack

For times you can’t refuel right away after a race or a long run, the chocolate-coated Protein wafers (formerly called Prokrunch) by Xact make a satisfying and yummy post-run snack. Available in chocolate, vanilla and coconut, the bars contain 250 calories and 15 g of whey protein (a vegan version is also available). $3.59 each
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Energybars by NamedSport are a light, rice-krispie-style snack and make a tasty post-run pick-me-up. Available in banana, peach, strawberry and wild berries, they contain 28 g of carbohydrate and are lactose- and aspartame-free and vegetarian-friendly. $30 for a box of 12

Isotonic Hydra Zero drink tabs by NamedSport


Isotonic Hydra Zero drink tabs by NamedSport have a light, refreshing taste and are suitable for both on-course hydration and post-race recovery. Available in quick-dissolving orange and lemon flavours, each tab contains vitamins B1, B2 and B6, plus magnesium, potassium, chlorine, calcium and sodium (but zero sugar—sweetened with sucralose). Suggested use is two tabs dissolved in 270 ml of water, or a little more than a cup. $9 per tube of 20 tabs

Xact Electrolytes sports hydration tabs keep you well hydrated on long, hot runs, when you’re more at risk for dehydration. Available in plain, cherry, lemon and citrus bang (which contains 50 mg of caffeine from guarana extract). Suggested use: dissolve one tab in 500 ml (2 cups) of water; delivers 3 g of carbohydrate, 520 mg sodium, 25 mg magnesium, 100 g potassium, 6 mg iron, 25 mg vitamin C and only 1 g of sugar. Tabs are vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free. $12.50 per tube of 10 tabs (or 3 tubes for $30)

Xact electrolytes tabs

Skratch Labs Sports Hydration Drink Mix is made with real fruit and comes in six light-tasting flavours. Each serving yields electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium) and carbs formulated in an ideal ratio of fructose to glucose for athletes—and the raspberry-limeade flavour also contains 50 mg of caffeine. Simpy dissolve a packet in 350 to 500 ml (1.5 to 2 cups) of water and drink when you’re thirsty. This vegan-friendly product is available in three formats. $2.50 per serving, $20 for a box of eight single-serving packets, or $30 for a 20-serving bag; lemon-lime flavour also available in 1.3-kg/60-serving bags for $75
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Skratch Labs Clear Hydration Drink Mix is for those seeking a less sweet alternative, and comes in two flavours (hint of orange and hint of lemon). With only 4 g of sugar per serving, you also get 270 mg of sodium to fend off muscle cramps. $3.15 per serving or $25 for a box of eight single-serving packets or $30 for a 16-serving bag


This story originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Canadian Running

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