Tightwad Triathlete Tip #8

Posted: July 16, 2012 in Financial, Nutrition
Tags: ,

Lately, I’ve been struggling with the concept of fuel and nutrition, particularly during my long workouts.  In fact, my last few long runs have totally sucked.  The issue is that given the challenging heat and humidity in which I’m forced to train, I’m finding it hard to keep myself fueled adequately now that I’m pushing the two and a half hour barrier.  Hydration isn’t really an issue as I can carry up to a liter of water in my hydration belt, so as long as I’ve hydrated well throughout the day prior to going out I’m typically okay.  Problem is, is that I also need to be eating as well.

energy-wall1

“Will that be cash, cheque or first born…?”

Typically, it is recommended that long distance runners are to consume approximately 60-90g of carbohydrates per hour.  Most endurance athletes I know take in this precious life force in the way of performance gels which offer about 23g  (90 calories) of carbohydrates per packet.  So, breaking it down, that equates to about a gel every twenty minutes or so and at the cost of nearly $3.00  a pop, that’s nearly $10.00  for every hour of working out.  Extrapolate that to approximately 6 hours of running a week (never mind on the bike or elsewhere) and we’re talking about some pretty big bucks here.  Sure, there are other options available at running stores aside from gels (in fact, I really don’t even care for gels), but most other products are still comparable in price.  Seriously, who can afford that?

Of course, my ultimate tightwad-ness has kicking into overdrive in trying to come up with a more natural, effective and, of course, less costly alternative to gels.  Let’s be straight, I don’t mind dropping some bucks for good nutrition on race day but, Lord knows, with nearly 10 weeks left to Ironman, if I were to pay out $10.00  for each hour I hit the pavement I’d be up to my eyeballs in debt by the time the starting gun sounded to start the race since we’d be talking about nearly $600  in gels alone.  The fuck!

So, after talking with some peers and doing some investigation, I think I have found a viable solution:  dried honey dates, readably available from any Bulk Barn or grocery store at the cost of $5.65/lb.  That’s only $1.25  per 100g  (210 calories), or the ideal amount that I need each hour of training.  Okay, so that’s a bit better.  But how do they measure up nutritionally?

First, it must be noted that the dried variety of date provides a more concentrated source of nutrients than the fresh kind.  Sure they kind of look like little mummified roaches but, then again, lest I remind you what I look like when I run:

Yeah, not pretty!

Besides, I’d eat fresh road kill by most points in my long run if only they got me that much closer to home quicker.  I’m not much of a stickler when it comes to the aesthetics of my fuel sources anyway, given that most gel varieties look like toxic waste.  Needless to say, it doesn’t have to be pretty or inviting…just effective and cheap.

Dates contain a myriad of nutrients (both macro and micro) in addition to being an excellent source of easily digested carbohydrate (while still being virtually fat-free), prompting scientists who’ve studied them to label them “an almost ideal food”; a distinction not shared with GU gels I’m sure.  They’re like the perfect energy food!  Research has also revealed that dates are also good sources of antioxidant compounds including anthocyanins, carotenoids and phenolics.  According to “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” date extract was found to prevent free radical damage to fats and proteins, with the more concentrated extracts exerting the most protective effect.  I don’t know what that means exactly, but it sure sounds good to me.

Here’s the real deal-sealer though:

In certain tradition it’s believed that dates, fresh or dried, help improve your physical stamina as well as libido. Dates are rich in minerals and contain several phytonutrients which are responsible for providing higher strength and stamina in the body.

dates2How awesome is that?  And given that these things have been around for nearly 4000 years, possibly being the first cultivated plant in history, are you going to dispute a track record like that?  Hell, Phidippides himself was probably munching on these little suckers during his original 280 mile jaunt to Sparta and back to beg for military assistance.  Imagine how much that would have cost him had he been using gels?

Oh, and as matter of convenience, dried dates have a particularly long shelf-life.  If refrigerated in an airtight container they stay fresh for up to one year, and if in the freezer can last up to five years.  I don’t know what the shelf life is for your average gel packet, but I’m not confident that it’s wise to hang onto them for too long.  Just saying…

So going forward, I’m going to try loading up on these little babies to carry with me on my fuel belt to snack on during my log runs (and rides).  Oh.  How do they actually taste?  Well, they’re delicious as a matter of fact.  Certainly better than the last $3.00 packet of gooey Montana Huckleberry that I scarfed down last week.  Really, what the hell is a Montana Huckleberry anyway?

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Comments
  1. mrstakahashi says:

    Thank you for your information on the dates. I am a long distance runner and have stayed away from the dates because they look yucky. However I am always open to trying alternatives to the gels. I plan to go to a bulk barn and get some this week. I enjoy reading your posts by the way. Best of luck with the Ironman!

  2. Kelly says:

    well heck, they’re tasty, cheap, effective *and* they improve your libido ??? Sounds win win to me 🙂

  3. Jan says:

    These would be good for Dan too!!! Love it when you research! Dan hasn’t walked a lot in the 8 months he’s been ill and still hospitalized. He’s a picky eater though. Wish me luck in getting these into him. He just managed to get up to 160lbs (he’s 5’11” tall) so he’s very thin and has little stamina. Thanks for the idea Terry. These could be a big help.
    Jan

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