Monday, February 20, 2012

Baby Food... The New Paleo Gu??

Anyone who has done a serious distance event has probably suffered from Gel Overload: a syndrome in which you never want to look at a little foil packet of flavored sugary goop again. Ever. They fall into the category of a necessary evil, even for those of us who try to eat Paleo most of the time, there's no way to really get around the fact that our paleolithic ancestors did not go out and try to Swim, Bike, and Run for twelve straight hours at the outer limits of their stamina and abilities. Especially not in stupidly hot, windy, or miserable conditions. They would probably laugh at the notion. Get too hot? Sit down in the shade for awhile. Tired? Take a nap. Hungry? eat real food. Foolish endurance athletes.

But if you're going to subject your body to an Endurance Torture Session (aka Ironman), you have to replace the glycogen that you're burning with some very simple, easy-to-digest sugary crap. Even the Paleo Diet for Athletes says so. However, assuming that you're not training at quite the same intensity that you race at, there's no reason to use that nasty little packaged sugar glop for every training session. And as someone who would prefer to fuel up with real food, I'd rather turn elsewhere for my calories.

Enter baby food.

Say Whhhhaattttt? Well, good quality (organic) baby food is real food in its simplest and most digestible form, right? And now instead of being in those little glass jars (they are just SO 1960s), it comes in little foil squeezable pouches, just made for clumsy little toddler's hands (or the shaking hands of someone about to bonk on a long bike ride).

Don't get me wrong. I like being all Laura Ingalls Wilder. I like to crockpot up my own homemade applesauce as much as the next gingham-clad barefoot HouseFrau. But have you ever tried to take a mason jar of applesauce on a long bike ride? Not so easy to fit in your back jersey pocket, is it? So enter the squeezable baby food packet. Now I'm not talking about mashed peas and carrots, mind you. The good ones are like mango-apple-banana, or peach-apple. They're pretty yummy, very transportable, and they go down fast. Just like a Gu, but without that nasty sticky gross texture and flavor.

Of course, when it comes closer to racing, I'm going to put the fructose on the back shelf. Real fruit (mashed or otherwise) is simply harder on your digestive system and more difficult to digest and utilize than pure unadulterated sucrose, glucose, and dextrose. Yes, I'll be using the gels when it comes to race preparation and racing itself. But in the meantime, I can do my palate and my body a favor and fuel with real food. Conveniently packaged. Hey, at least it doesn't have round-faced Gerber babies on the packaging anymore, so us athletes can buy them without shame, even without a toddler in tow.


Kiki said...


I also prowl the baby food aisle for organic, juice-sweetened bars. They're still probably too sugary for ideal health but make a nice change (and are a lot cheaper than) the athletes' versions.

momo said...

love this idea! i've been trying to figure out just what to do on my longer runs and this is such a good option. i also tried those little packets of justin's peanut or almond butter, but i'm having a hard time with the protein during a 12 or 15 mile run. i've fallen back to the old gu staple just because i know my body can handle it.

ATW said...

Pretty interesting post!! Baby Food.. Im nodding my head because it makes perfect sense especially if it comes in a squeezable packet. I will definetly give this a try this training season.

tj said...

I googled "whole30 ironman" and came across your blog. You and I are training for the same race!!! I've been on a Whole 30 for almost 6 months now and was apprehensive about taking those first steps back to the sugar-laden training foods. Your comments and experience with Whole 30, paleo, and Ironman training were good for me to hear. Thank you! And best of luck training for CdA, maybe I'll get to see you there :)