I’m not usually a fan of “almost.” I like done. I like to be all-in. Go big, or go home, right?!? I get summit fever as much as anyone and hate to “almost” finish a ride, climb, or run. I almost never let “almost” stand.
However, in some instances, I have to admit that almost can work just fine. This week, I’m going to give you a handful of fuel ideas, that are “almost” homemade, and completely amazing fuel. And all you’ve got to do is just add salt. No recipes, no stress in the kitchen…just add salt. If you think some of my ideas are too time-consuming, this post is for you. If you wish you had good real-food options but just don’t feel like spending much time in the kitchen, this post is for you.
In fact, many of you likely already use these options without adding salt; and, they are almost good enough. That’s where “just add salt” comes in…it adds the sodium you need, and takes these foods to the next level in terms of training nutrition.
As you know, sodium is a key nutrient for training fuel…it helps your stomach empty liquid contents, improves absorption in the gut, and replenishes sodium lost from the bloodstream. In one easy step, you can take these ordinary foods, and turn them into your new favorite fuel option. One step: Just add salt.
Recipes of the Week:
Top 10 “Just Add Salt” Training Fuel Recipes:
1) Salted Dates
Place 4-5 dates in a small baggie. Add in 1/12 tsp salt (just estimate 1/3 of a 1/4 tsp, or 0.5 grams ). Now, you’ve got approximately 30 grams carbs (look on the date label, depends on size/type of date) and 200 mg sodium.
2) LARA Bars
Remove packaging and add 1/12 tsp (0.5 gm) salt across the length of the bar. Fold bar over itself. Store in a baggie and consume when needed for 23-30 grams carbs, 4-8 grams protein, and 200-250 mg sodium.
3) Juice and Water
One of my favorite refreshing drink options for up to 2 hours of training. Pour 10-12 ounces 100% juice in a bottle and add the same amount of water. Add 1/8 tsp-3/16 tsp sodium (one 1/8 tsp + one-half of a 1/8), or 0.75-1.12 gm salt. At 24 ounces fluid, with 12 oz. juice, you’ve got 45 grams carbs and up to 450 mg sodium. Of course, fruit juice has quite a bit of fructose, anywhere from a 2:1 to a 1:1 fructose:glucose ratio. This may not be optimal for really long rides, and may even cause stomach issues in some athletes. However, with the salt added, it should readily exit the stomach and provide fuel to the cells. I’ve run, cycled, and skied (uphill) on it with no problems…it hydrates, provides nutrients, and tastes great!
Salted licorice is a refreshing, not too sweet anti-nausea fuel choice. Simply add 1/12 tsp. (0.5 gm) salt to 10 pieces all-natural licorice. Just like that, you’ve got 25-30 grams carbs and 200 mg sodium.
Rice is a concentrated source of carbs, and just 2/3 cup (cooked) provides 30 grams carbs. If you’re cooking rice for a dinner anyway, save 2/3 cup for your next ride (freeze if not used within 48 hours). Add 1/12 tsp (0.5 gm) salt to 2/3 cup cooked rice, roll into tight balls and take on the road. It’s savory instead of sweet, and provides 30 grams carbs and 200 mg sodium. As an alternative, you can add just 1/2 tsp liquid aminos or soy sauce to rice instead of salt.
6) Sweet Potatoes
Take cooked sweet potatoes, maybe from last night’s dinner as well (you were carb-loading, right?), mash and add salt. Just 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes with 1/12 tsp salt (0.5 gm) will provide 30 grams carbs and 200 mg sodium. Place it in a small baggie, seal it and squeeze it out to eat on the ride.
7) Fruit Strips
There are plenty of all natural, 100% fruit dehydrated fruits strips available in stores. Cut strip in half width-wise, add 1/12 tsp (0.5 gm) and top with cut piece (like a fruit strip/salt sandwich) for up to 25 gm carbs and 200 mg sodium.
8) Natural Fig Newtons
These work well because they are not too sweet, but they can be “dry” so make sure you have some fluids as well. Add 1/12 tsp (0.5 gm) total to 2 fig newtons and you’ll have 20-25 grams carbs and 200 mg sodium.
My favorite all-natural gel – just add salt to make it a complete training fuel. Place 2 Tbsp honey in a gel flask, add a small amount of water to make easy-to-squeeze and 1/12 tsp (0.5 gm) salt; 30 grams carbs and 200 mg sodium.
10) Coconut Water
Most coconut waters provide some carbs, sodium, and a lot of potassium. Naturally flavored (100% fruit juice or fruit puree) ones provide extra carbs and a great taste. Pour 16 oz. fruit flavored coconut water (such as Vita Coco coconut water with peach and mango) in your bottle. Fill to the top with water and add 1/8 tsp (0.75 gm) salt. You’ll get 30 grams carbs, 390 mg sodium, and a whopping 920 mg potassium.
These 10 options provide carbs, sodium, and in some cases fluid. They are great fuel choices, but obviously, not all you need per hour on the bike.
While you can usually skimp on fuel for up to 90 minutes training (your performance will likely improve by adding fuel anytime you train longer than 60 minutes), I recommend full fueling when riding longer than 90 minutes. Our “just add salt” list of options can be one easy component in meeting your hourly goals. For most clients, training fuel should include:
Training Up to 3 hours: 60 grams carbs, 400-700 mg sodium*, 100-300 mg potassium, and 18-24 oz. fluid per hour
3-5 hours: 75-90 grams carbs, other nutrients same as above
5+ hours: 90 grams carbs, other nutrients same as above
*Sodium needs are highly individual, and some athletes need 1000 mg or more per hour
Of course, you’re nutrient needs also depend on your goals as an athlete, any weight loss goals, and food/drink preferences. For a full discussion of what you likely need every hour on the bike, see my newest breakdown at Trainer Road here.
Lastly, I’m certainly not recommending you “just add salt” to your daily nutrition foods – this is for training fuel! Eating a high-salt diet can negatively affect many people by increasing blood pressure, and it can also set up an athlete for needing and “losing” more sodium from the blood stream when training. It’s smart to add it as much as 24 hours before a big ride, in pre-ride nutrition, and of course, while riding and recovering. At other times, keep the sodium intake to moderate.
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.