Saturday, September 20, 2014

DIY healthy energy gel


Grassy Mountain Lakes, near McCall, Idaho


Packing along some kind of energy gel or sports drink is essential when you are exercising for two or more hours. The problem for those with food sensitivities is that many of these pre-made energy products contain additives that may trigger symptoms.

This summer, my husband and I cycled for six days along the Washington coast and later went on a backpacking trip. These activities underscored the importance of having a quickly absorbed energy food with you.

Coffee Cup Lake
In preparation for these trips, I carefully read the labels of four different energy gels which promised to boost energy levels within 15 minutes of consuming them. Energy gels usually contain some kind of sugar, fruit concentrate, electrolytes and in some cases, caffeine.

Three of the products I considered contained maltodextrin. The fourth contained no maltodextrin but “natural flavors,” another red flag warning for those with food sensitivities.  

Lower Grassy Mountain Lake
Maltodextrin is an artificial sweetener added to a large variety of foods because it contains fewer calories than sugar. This common additive is usually harmless unless you are one of the unfortunate individuals allergic or sensitive to it.

I am one of those with sensitivity to maltodextrin, along with other artificial sweeteners. Side effects may include: diarrhea, upset stomach, vomiting, hives or rash, and/or asthma or breathing problems.

After reading the labels, my decision was easy. I would make my own energy gel. Here’s the recipe for the great-tasting energy gel I packed along on my trips.

Date energy gel in gel flask
Date Energy Gel

(Recipe makes enough for four servings. Consume one serving every 30 minutes when exercising for two or more hours.)

Left to right, lemon juice, cocoa powder, almond butter, coconut oil, salt. Dates not pictured.
Ingredients

4 pitted dates, free of any coating or added sugar
1 T. cocoa powder
1 tsp. peanut butter, sunbutter or other safe seed or nut butter
1 tsp. coconut oil
3 T. fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Stevia to taste or 1 T. honey, if tolerated 
1/4 cup water

Directions

Soften the dates. Place them in a small container with ¼ cup water. Microwave for 30 seconds or long enough to soften the dates. Reserve the liquid in case you need to thin your gel.
Ingredients in Vitamix, ready to blend

Place the dates and other ingredients in your food processor or blender. Pulse until all the ingredients are pureed and smooth. Add a bit of the reserved water if the mixture is too thick.

Mixture blended and smooth
Pour the gel into an energy gel tube or divide into four small snack bags.