Loving the BITE: Inexpensive Training Fuel Alternatives for Cyclists and Athletes

Tired of forking over a buck or more every time you want a gel, bar, or drink for each hour of your ride?

Many times, me too.   When weight (or lack thereof) is a priority on very long rides, and I simply want convenience from commercially available light-weight products, gels are one of my go-to fuels.   But, when I’m not as concerned about carbs per gram of weight, and I want more regular-foods at a cheaper price, I often look to other products, outside the sports food aisle of the store.

I’ll admit, these products like gels or most easy-to-digest bars, are not necessarily nutrition all-stars.  They are not all packed with superfood nutrients and most are certainly NOT a staple of my diet nor should they be of yours.   But, when convenience counts, and I haven’t had time to whip up my favorite homemade fuel recipes (which are usually my first choice), you may find me riding with one or more of these in my jersey pocket:

10 Fuel Options Outside the Sports Food Aisle

1) Fig Newtons:

These not-too-sweet cookies are inexpensive, satisfying, and pack a good amount of carbs.  For just 2, you’ll get 15-20 grams of carbs, close to the amount found in many gels.  They are also as convenient as most any fuel, and if needed, an easy food to which you can add salt (see more on salt below).

2) Natural Ingredient Fruit Snacks:

The closest non-sports-food option to a gel or chomp, kids’ fruits snacks are pre-packaged, carb-saturated, and easy to get down.  And, compared to their chomp counterparts, extremely inexpensive.  At ~15 grams carbs per packet, they can certainly contribute to your hourly carb needs on the bike.  But, beware, many are packed with fake colorings, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), flavorings or more.  While I don’t think you have to pay for the organic over-priced fruit snacks, look for ones that are made with sugar instead of HFCS and natural ingredient and colorings.

3) Real Licorice: coconutjuice-1-e1354630591105-225x300

Like fruit snacks, these natural candies are mostly made up of carbs.  Unlike the fruit snacks, they go beyond regular macronutrients and also offer natural ingredients that soothe the stomach.  At just 7 small pieces per 15 grams carbs, they are convenient and easy to get down.

4) Coconut Water :

Of course, coconut water is becoming more and more a sports food as more and more athletes look to it as a natural sports drink.  And, I hesitate to put it on this list since it’s hardly cheap.  But, compared to many boutique sports drinks, you’ll likely still save money and find a natural alternative loaded with potassium, sodium, and carbs.

5) Natural-Ingredient Cheese Sandwich Crackers:

These are a savory choice, while many on this list are more on the sweet side (like most bars/gels).   I look forward to these and they always hit the spot.  Again, I would not and do not eat these when not training.  But, as my solid fuel option every 3 hours or so on a long ride, they make for an inexpensive and salty treat.

6) Honey:

Most readers know I think a lot of organic and raw honey.  Whether from a honey stick or squeezed into a flask (with maybe a small amount of water to make it flow better), it’s an all natural carb source that also packs enzymes, antioxidants, and minerals.  It digests slower than most pure sugars, and works well as fuel.

7) Salt:

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