I don’t like nuts, and take far too many sweets. Snacking is a major weakness, especially with long or ultra runs when it’s all too easy to grab some quick sweets, energy (ie sugar) drink or chocolate to eat. Yes, people will also eat bananas but for many people, sweets are too easy and too irresistible. However, the better (ie faster, stronger, longer and more sensible!) runners are increasingly realising a natural diet is better for both racing and general health/conditioning.
After coming up with the idea of #18parkruns in one weekend, I knew this presented a great opportunity to try something new. Completing 9 runs per day and driving in between (250 miles on first day alone) left little opportunity to eat properly. Nutrition and tiredness had been major issues for Scottish runners who’d recently undertaken a similar challenge. I wish I could say that after much research and testing, I discovered acti-snack but in truth they had recently followed me on twitter, were local and seemed friendly… sometimes you just hit lucky.
Acti-snack has a range of fruit, nut, soya and seed snacks that can help pre, during and post run (recovery). You can see the full range, ingredients, stats etc on their cool looking website. They hit all the funky & fad boxes. This was going to be a challenge, but bottom line I took fewer sweets on Sunday than I normally would even without running.
This was part conscience effort but more I actually preferred the Sweet & Sour Mango snacks. They quickly became my ‘go to’ snack, perfect for when I was driving between runs. They gave you enough energy to get through run without filling the stomach. Like other runners, stomach problems can play a huge part in races. I’d say 50% of how I feel on the day is down to stomach and it dictates how well I can run more than any other factor.
On long ultra’s / challenges, you can quickly become sick of the taste of a certain food or drink, but over 2 days I never felt that way with sweet & sour Mango… and I’ve got that way loads with other sweets, jaffa cakes or energy drinks (which mostly try and avoid now). Their small size makes acti-snacks perfect for carrying whilst running and for having in your pocket, back pack or car.
I was really worried about diet over the weekend, especially as my stomach wasn’t great to start, but the acti-snack helped and when I took mostly them on Sunday I felt a lot better (also a good night sleep probably helped too). I’m sceptical of all these new hippy happy foods, when a balanced diet, sleep and exercise could provide a lot more benefit. However that’s not always possible. In the meantime, I’m going to try a few of the other acti-snack flavours/packs whilst training and see what works best for me.
In the next 12 months, I need to move more towards a healthier diet generally and especially during long runs/races. I can’t recommend all the flavours just yet, but I’m at least now willing to give them a try, even some of the nut ones… that’s a huge step for me!
I once made the mistake of telling our club runners that my mate, a brilliant ultra-runner, took a chocolate croissant before long runs. So they now think I fully endorse chocolate croissants at any time. Yet, amongst the bananas, fruit, pre-cooked pasta, lucozades, kit-kats, jelly babies, sandwiches and caramel squares… they tried the acti-snacks and enjoyed them.
Acti-snacks haven’t paid me for this (although it’s never too late acti-snack), but they loved the idea of a unique challenge & adventure and agreed to provide a few samples. I’ve still a few left and can give one or two away if people want to try. I don’t know if it’s the fancy packaging, hours of scientific research, gimmicky name or the way they mash the Mangoes, I honestly don’t care if it’s just a marketing placebo effect. It just works, tastes nice, and is a lot healthier than what I normally take… plus the company is local; they’ve been great sports, friendly and supportive. Definitely worth a try!
#18parkruns was the first ever attempt to run all 18 parkrun courses in NI over 2 days. This involved over 390 miles driving and 90km running in under 39 hours. Our team consisted of 4 people, 3 of whom had never run further than a half-marathon before. To find out more contact BelfastRunning@gmail.com