Dirty Little (Food) Secret

By all estimations, I’m a healthy eater and a predictable one at that. I eat either an egg sandwich (homemade) or oatmeal for breakfast. I have a 10 am snack of almonds (natural, unsalted) and dried fruit. Lunch is leftovers from dinner and a serving of raw veggies. My afternoon snack is either oatmeal or pretzels and a piece of fruit. Dinner is some combination of protein, veggies and carbohydrate.

It cracks me up, then, that my fuel of choice for long runs, workouts and races are Poptarts. Yes, Poptarts. I’m not talking about a homemade version but the frosted, tinfoil wrapped treat that I’m convinced no one actually toasts.

PoptartMy favorite flavor is brown sugar cinnamon, with my second being the frosted strawberry. So what’s the deal?

The gut is an unpredictable thing and is a challenge for many distance runners. There’s little worse than being in the middle of a run and finding yourself looking left and right for a pit stop. Similarly miserable is the bonked feeling with concrete legs and stars in your path of vision. For me, Poptarts provide enough energy to get me through most of my longer workouts without upsetting my gut.

What’s the science here? The nutrition facts below (and I eat a packet, so double all those numbers) show that a packet of Poptarts boast 420 calories, 14 grams of fat, 68 grams of carbohydrate and minimal protein. By comparison, a GU packet is ~100 calories with 25 grams of carbohydrate. Both are primarily comprised of sugar. A huge limiting factor on how far and how fast you can run is how rich your glycogen stores are and how efficiently your body uses fat as energy. (Hint, most of us don’t and this is a key purpose for slow long runs). For me, fueling before my run rather than periodically throughout the run makes for a happier gut and a better opportunity for my body to adapt to the conditions of the long run. The fat in Poptarts helps me feel full longer and they are generally more palatable for me than something out of a packet.

Poptart Nutrition facts

Poptarts (or similarly alternative fuels) may not be for everyone, but they certainly work for me. It is a celebrated day when I have a run free of GI issues and if that means I get weird looks at the grocery store, so be it.

Anyone else love Poptarts or have a food secret that co-workers or training partners would raise an eyebrow at?

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