August in Texas is hot. Just plain hot. At times when I run and see the
brown, dead or dying grass, parched plants, and cracked earth, I think of the words the narrator in Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Comes” imagines spoken by Nature:
No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In the strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See
Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly,
“It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
’T is the Last Judgment’s fire must cure this place,
Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”
Without trying to minimize the tone of despair expressed by the unnamed narrator in Browning’s poem, I do feel a sort of despair at the over-whelming energy, life-sapping heat of August. To get ourselves through the often steamy, always sweltering days of August, Phillip and I plan an October race somewhere in a cooler region outside of Texas. We plan this yearly October trip for two reasons: October is our anniversary month, so our fall race in a less taxing climate doubles as our anniversary celebration, and planning for the autumn trip and race throughout the summer adds purpose to the miserable runs we must endure throughout the scorching summer months. This year, on October 18th, Phillip and I will be in Bar Harbor, ME, running the Mount Desert Island Marathon. Whoo-hoo! The date is quickly approaching! Relief from the heat is in sight! We will feel very sad for our friends and family in Texas, who will still be suffering temperatures in the 90s as we are enjoying a much cooler climate in beautifulMaine!
In the meantime, Phillip and I are ramping up our miles and the distance of our runs.
The need to balance eating to fuel a workout with the effect the heat will have on one’s stomach while running is a delicate, ever-present concern for runners. The balance becomes even more delicate for workouts performed in a harsh environment. The less I eat before a run, in general, but before a run in hot temperatures especially, the better. Sometimes a banana or little yogurt works fine to fuel a run; however, before a long run something a little more filling, and dairy-free, works best (at least for me). Dozens of products specifically designed to fuel all types of athletic activities are available on grocery shelves. Some of these products are dairy-free, and many of the newest brands are also gluten-free and grain-free. In the past few years even the most established of companies have reformulated their products to be gluten-free. In a pinch, I will pick up a few gluten-free protein bars at the store. Lately, however, I’ve been making my own gluten-free, grain-free pre-workout snack. I’ve tweaked the recipe to the point where I can just whip a batch of nutritious, filling pre-workout bars in about thirty minutes time, including baking. Yesterday I even made a batch just before leaving to meet a friend for a 7:30 am fifteen miler. They were still warm when I put them in a Glad Ware container to go; I shared them with Gwen as we began our run.
I like to bake my own pre-work out bars because most of the commercial brands of protein bars contain processed ingredients. In order to get a high protein and fiber content into such a small serving, food companies add ingredients that have been removed or processed out of the natural environment of the whole foods in which they appear. The ingredient lists for these small servings of sport nutrition are fairly long, and contain such processed items as soy isolate, soy protein, soy flour, inulin, vegetable glycerin, sucralose, natural flavors, caseinate, malitol syrup . . . . and on and on. Most of these ingredients can honestly be referred to as all natural. They derive from plants and fruits. The problem is that in order for these ingredients to be used as they are in sport or nutrition bars, they must be processed out of the fruits and plants in which they naturally occur.
I’m no scientist, and I’m sure people do gain some benefit from some (but probably not all – especially not any soy product) of these processed ingredients; however, I prefer to obtain my nutrition from whole sources. After all, the context in which each element of an edible item appears matters. Inulin consumed in a piece of fruit, for example, will behave in the body differently than inulin isolated and processed out of a fruit or plant for use in a processed food. Food companies use inulin to add fiber and sweetness to products, without adding more sugar and carbohydrates. It also behaves as a flavor enhancer and fat replacement. Processed inulin is refined and concentrated. It passes through the body more quickly than inulin that’s consumed in the natural environment of a fruit or vegetable. The speed with which processed inulin is digested often causes digestive discomfort in people who eat foods that contain it.
I don’t really know how these processed natural ingredients will behave in my body long-term, so I avoid them when I can. The bars I make for our work-outs may not be as high in protein and vitamins as those available in retail stores, but I would rather have a lower protein and fiber content with honest, wholesome ingredients than a higher protein and fiber content with undesirable, highly processed ingredients. Through experimentation, I have developed a recipe that makes excellent, nutritious, and delicious (always an important criteria!) bars, using whatever blend of flours and stir-ins that suit me on a particular day. I don’t use any baking powder or baking soda; I don’t particularly want the bars to be cake-like. Since my gluten-free, grain-free bars lack the texture of cake, they travel well, which means I can take them with me on the airplane when we fly to Maine in October.
Below is the basic formula or recipe for wholesome bars for pre-workout (or post-work-out). I prefer grain-free as well as gluten-free, but individuals have individual preferences, so anyone interested in making her own bars for a quick nutritious snack can substitute her own preferences. Below the general recipe, I provide the recipe with my current favorite blend of flours and stir-ins.
The basic formula is this:
125 g (or 1 cup) of gluten-free, grain free flour or flour blend
35 g (or 1/4 cup) coconut sugar
1/2 cup soy-free dark chocolate chips (such as Guittard or Enjoy Life)
2 tbls of any kind of seeds or dried fruit you wish to add
3 – 4 tbls coconut oil or melted butter from grass-fed cows
2 eggs, beaten
Mix all ingredients together, press into a greased 8 x 8 square pan.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until starting to brown on top. Cool, cut into nine square bars.
My current favorite bar recipe:
62.5 g Quinoa flour
31 g coconut flour
31 g peanut flour
35 g coconut sugar
2 tbls pumpkin seeds
2 tbls sunflower seeds
2 tbls hulled hemp hearts
2 tbls shredded coconut
1/2 cup Guittard 63% soy-free chocolate chips
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbls coconut oil
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Grease or oil an 8 x 8 square pan.
-In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until mixture is uniformly
wet and clumps together.
-Press mixture evenly into the pan, pressing down with a spoon until the
mixture is packed uniformly across the bottom of the pan.