“If I have a big day ahead, my plan is just to keep my tank full,” says professional mountain biker Matt Hunter.
“If I have a big day ahead, my plan is just to keep my tank full,” says professional mountain biker Matt Hunter. (Photo: Sterling Lorence Photography)

The Best Fuel for Your Longest Sufferfests

Six pro endurance athletes weigh in on the foods that keep them energized for the long haul

“If I have a big day ahead, my plan is just to keep my tank full,” says professional mountain biker Matt Hunter.

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Goo, gummies, hydration mixes—the options for fueling up during a workout are seemingly endless. Ultimately, the best option largely comes down to personal preference and the distance ahead. We asked six professional athletes how they stay energized on their longest days.

Trail Butter ($18 for 3)

(Courtesy Trail Butter)

Zahan Billimoria, Mountain Guide

As a full-time professional guide in Jackson, Wyoming, Zahan Billimoria needs slow-burning fuel to keep him energized for long days in the mountains. With a schedule full of outdoor pursuits, his on-the-go food makes up a huge portion of his overall diet. “It got me thinking: What’s a better way to live healthily?” Billimoria says. So he switched from bars heavy in sugars and carbs and gels to nuts and oils. Trail Butter makes nut butter blends with whole-food ingredients in resealable, four-serving pouches. A serving of one of its blends—which come in flavors like maple, coffee, and cranberry—has 190 calories and 16 or 17 grams of fat. “It’s nut butter, but it has all these other things in it as well—coconut oil and different seeds,” Billimoria says. “It’s very effective fuel for long days.”

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VFuel Peach Cobbler Gel ($38 for 24)

(Courtesy VFuel)

Kaytlyn Gerbin, Ultrarunner

Like a true Midwesterner, Kaytlyn Gerbin was raised on cheese and ice cream. Now her nutrition philosophy hangs on a similar simplicity and consistency—though with more digestible foods. “I stick with gels every 20 to 30 minutes,” says the 28-year-old ultrarunner, who is currently training for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. Gerbin prefers VFuel gel because it “goes down easy.” The peach cobbler flavor, with organic peach extract and a hint of cinnamon, tastes like candy peach rings, according to Gerbin. Her other secret weapon? Watermelon—the real kind, with plenty of water and simple sugars. “If you catch me at an aid station mid-race, there’s a high probability I’ll have a slice in both hands.”

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Gu Roctane Mix ($30)

(Courtesy Gu)

Jeff Browning, Ultrarunner

“I like to think of my caloric intake as an IV drip,” says Browning, a runner with more than 100 ultramarathon finishes to his name. He takes in 200 calories per hour while training or racing. Browning opts for about 100 calories’ worth of Gu Roctane mix and fills out the rest with a Gu Roctane gel or small amounts of solid food in the form of fruit at aid stations or some salted plantain chips that he keeps in his pocket.

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Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs (Price Varies)

(Courtesy Pete and Gerry's)

Gwen Jorgensen, Olympic Triathlete

A single egg is stacked with nutrition: essential vitamins and minerals, protein, healthy unsaturated fats and antioxidants, and 75 calories. That’s probably why Gwen Jorgensen, an Olympian triathlete, keeps a few hard-boiled eggs—Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, specifically—in her gym bag to tide her over after a workout until she gets home for a real meal. Her strategy is different on race day. “I need something that’s easy to digest, quick, and won’t waste any energy chewing/opening packages,” Jorgensen says. For these reasons, she prefers gels that disintegrate in water.

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Muir Energy Gels ($30 for 12) and Cranked Naturals Electrolyte Mix ($18)

(Courtesy REI; Courtesy Cranked)

Sabrina Stanley, Ultrarunner

Sabrina Stanley carries one soft flask of water and one filled with Cranked on her runs. “It’s not an overwhelming flavor—a very subtle lemon” she says. “So at mile 50-plus, I don’t feel like I’m drinking liquid sugar or sodium.” Stanley drinks half a flask of each an hour; every 30 or 40 minutes, she pops one of her Muir gels. “It’s the only gel I know of that tastes like real food and not flavored sugar,” Stanley says. They also pack about 50 extra calories compared to most other gels on the market.

Gels Electrolyte Mix

Clif Bars ($1.50) and Shot Blocks ($2)

(Courtesy Clif)

Matt Hunter, mountain biker

“If I have a big day ahead, my plan is just to keep my tank full,” says Matt Hunter, a professional mountain biker and Clif ambassador based out of Kamloops, British Columbia. He opts for a Clif Bar made with organic rolled oats and packed with vitamins. For energy on the move, Hunter eats Shot Blocks, which offer 33 calories of simple carbs in a tasty, gummy form. “I usually get hungry again shortly after breakfast, but I won’t let that happen if I have a long way to go. I’ll eat a bar right after breakfast and open another one to keep in my pocket and keep hitting it. My basic rule is to bring as much food as I can, and it’s always gone at the end of the day. A half-pack of Bloks when it’s really needed is a glorious thing.”

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Lead Photo: Sterling Lorence Photography

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