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The best whole food alternatives to gels

Do sports gels make your stomach turn? Try these natural alternatives instead to power your long runs

Sports research says that if you’re running for more than an hour and 15 minutes, you should eat 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour if you want to maintain your pace throughout the entire run. Marathoners know this well, and anyone whose ever hit “the wall” at the 30-kilometre mark understands the consequences of flaunting this rule. Most runners turn to gels or sport chews to fulfill this need, but what if the thought of slurping back a bunch of goo during your run makes your stomach turn? The good news is, there are some more natural alternatives that can work just as well. Check out the list below, and give a few of these a try during your next long run.

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Raisins are great because they’re easy to carry in a little baggy or pouch, and at 33 grams of carbohydrates per quarter cup, they fall perfectly into the desired range for a mid-run boost. As a bonus, they’re also rich in potassium and contain some protein.


For some runners, it’s not the gooey texture of sport gels that bothers them, they’d just prefer something a little more all-natural. Mashed-up bananas are a great DIY sports gel. One mashed-up banana contains roughly 30 grams of carbohydrates (depending, of course, on the size of the banana), and are low enough fibre that most runners tend to tolerate them well.

Medjool dates

Just two Medjool dates have about 35 grams of carbohydrates, so you only need to take a handful of them with you to satisfy your fueling needs during your run. Medjool dates are also much softer than the darker, chewier regular dates that you’ll also find in the grocery store, making them very easy to eat while you’re on the go.


Packets of applesauce are very easy to take with you on a run, and like gels, don’t require any chewing. The only downside is they tend to be a little lower in carbohydrates than some of your other options (they clock in at around 20-25 grams per pack), so this is a time when the sweetened variety may be the better option for you.

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Mini salted pretzels

Pretzels aren’t as high in carbohydrates as some of the others (they typically have about 23 grams per ounce), but are a great option on a hot day because of their sodium and potassium content. Of course, they do require some chewing and can be a bit dry, but washing them down with some water or sports drink should help solve that problem.