Real Food on the Run: 10 Homemade Running Fuel “Pouch” Recipes

Raw Organic Red Beets

Note from Matt: This post was written by Stepfanie Romine, co-author of the new No Meat Athlete Cookbook. Unlike other recipes we’ve posted, this one isn’t from the book — but it nicely captures the practical, real-food spirit of the Fuel & Recovery chapter (my favorite part of the book).

Experiment and enjoy this one, and when you have a minute, check out Sports Illustrated’s recent article about The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, in which they condensed the first few chapters into a nice piece that I think is perfect for helping this movement reach mainstream awareness, plus shared a substantial and delicious lentil-mushroom pasta dish from the book.


You know those runners who can eat or drink whatever they want during a workout or race? The ones that scarf down anything and everything, and never seem to have any trouble?

Yeah, I’m not one of those runners. Chances are you aren’t either.

Whatever the reason — a finicky digestive system, a food sensitivity or allergy, or simply a preference for knowing what’s going in your body — most of us have to pack our own food and drinks during rides and runs.

And if you’re anything like me, you’d much prefer to make your own fuel than buy processed gels with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Awhile back, while discussing the “Fuel & Recovery” chapter of the new No Meat Athlete Cookbook, Matt shared with me one of the quirky foods he ate while training for an ultra…

Baby food.

More accurately, fruit-and-veggie-based squeeze pouches for toddlers that he discovered at Starbucks (yup, Matt and his then six-month-old son were pretty much eating the same food). While they were made with real food and served their purpose, the disposable pouches and hefty price tag made them less than ideal for regular consumption.

But it got me thinking: Could I create a cheaper version on my own? A homemade, real-food, energy-packed running fuel that’s easy to eat on a long run?

Turns out it’s simple, and since I’ve started using reusable silicone pouches there’s much less waste, too. But if all you’ve got on hand is plastic baggies, that works too — just bite off the corner and squeeze when you’re ready to eat, just like you would with an energy gel.

Introducing the Homemade Running Fuel Pouch

Since Matt first discovered the pureed food pouch several years ago, several other companies have gotten on board. Most notably CLIF, who has a line of squeezable pouches they call Organic Energy Food (I hear Scott Jurek fueled much of this Appalachian Trail speed record with them).

This type of fuel has taken off because it’s easy to consume — no chewing necessary — and consists of real fuel instead of the junk in energy gels.

And as I discovered, they’re really simple to make. You either mix or puree the ingredients together with enough water to achieve your desired texture, then use a funnel to pour them into your pouch. That’s it.

It’s not haute cuisine, but it is good, simple fuel to mix into your regular rotation of mid-exercise eats. Below I share the versions I love most, but you’ll notice that these are not detailed recipes and, in some cases, offer ranges rather than exact amounts.

That’s not us being lazy. It’s because we know that each athlete is different, and you’ll want to customize these to your palate and that day’s workout.

Tips:

  • Use a mini blender if you have one since these are made in such small batches.
  • If you have leftovers, freeze them in ice cube trays and add to your next smoothie.
  • Speaking of smoothies, each of these makes a delicious but simple smoothie (especially the beet-ginger one).
  • reusable silicone pouch is your best bet for bringing these on your run, but like I said above, plastic baggies work too.

10 Easy to Carry Running Fuel Pouch Recipes

1. Salty Sweet Potato

If your palate prefers savory to sweet, start with this simple sweet potato version.

Puree ½ cup roasted or steamed sweet potato (peeled) with ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ cup water until smooth. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Season to taste with additional salt. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to three days).

Optional: Add 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast to change up the flavor and give yourself a boost of B vitamins.

2. Date-Espresso

Dates are a classic form of homemade running fuel, but carrying and chewing them can be a hassle. This pureed version removes that hurdle, and the added espresso powder gives you a boost of caffeine.

Soak ½ cup pitted dates in water for 30 minutes. Puree the dates and soaking liquid with 1 teaspoon espresso powder until smooth.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to three days).

3. Banana-Date

Prefer to tone down the strong flavor of dates? Pair it with banana in this mild, sweet puree.

Puree 1 large banana with 3 dates (soaked in ¾ cup water for 30 minutes) and soaking liquid until smooth. Add a pinch of salt if desired.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

4. Pina Colada

Feeling adventurous? Turn your workout into a tropical getaway with this one. Pineapple, banana, and coconut water keep you fueled and hydrated.

Puree 1 banana with 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pineapple, 2 tablespoons shredded coconut, and ½ cup coconut water until smooth. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

5. Apple-Banana

The original baby food pouch Matt told me about inspired this flavor. It’s a classic taste and easy on the stomach.

Puree 1 cup unsweetened applesauce with 1 large ripe banana and ¾ cup water until smooth. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

6. Beet-Ginger

Beets have been shown to support stamina by boosting oxygen uptake during exercise. They’re sweet on their own but still a bit earthy, so we paired them with ginger (a natural anti-inflammatory that can help curb nausea) and banana for sweetness.

Puree 1 medium steamed or roasted beet (peeled, about 1 cup) with ¼ teaspoon fresh ginger, 1 medium ripe banana (or ½ cup unsweetened applesauce), and 3/4 cup water.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

7. Maple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Turn leftover breakfast into running fuel. One of the great things about endurance exercise is the excuse to go a bit crazy with the sweet stuff, like maple syrup, since it’s a time when your body really needs those quick-burning simple carbs.

Start with ½ cup plain cooked oatmeal, cooled. Mix in 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to taste or for additional carbs), a pinch of cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon salt with ¼ cup water.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

8. Apple Maca

This is one of the simplest pouch recipes we tried. Maca — a favorite among Inca warriors — adds a hint of nutty flavor and provides a boost of energy.

Stir 1 teaspoon maca powder into 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

9. Banana Maca

Another simple recipe, this blend of banana and maca offers a burst of energy with flavors that will be easy on the gut in the middle of a long run.

Puree 1 large ripe banana with ½ cup water, and 1 teaspoon maca powder (for a boost of energy) until smooth.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

10. Chia Switchel

The grape version of this homemade sports drink is Matt’s favorite. It requires just five simple ingredients and tastes delicious. Adding chia seeds thickens it to help you retain water (in a good way)!

Start with 1 cup of our Switchel recipe. Whisk in 1 ½ tablespoons chia seeds, stirring every few minutes until the Switchel thickens. After 15-20 minutes, pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to three days). (Chia can make a bit of a mess, but this recipe is worth it. Soak the pouches, then use a brush to remove stuck-on chia seeds.)

Bonus: We have two recipes for Slow-Cooker Brown Rice Porridge in the cookbook, one savory and one made with coconut and matcha. Those, once cooled and thinned as desired with water, could also become mid-workout eats.

For the savory variation of the porridge, omit the scallions, nori and sesame seeds. For the coconut-matcha version, skip the toppings, but do add the maple syrup.

Making Your Own Real-Food Running Fuel

If you’re a plant-based athlete who has spent months and years training for a goal, all the while prioritizing the food that goes onto your plate three times a day (or more often), then reaching for unidentifiable ingredients during the main event can feel like a letdown. And can impact your hard-earned endurance and stamina.

It’s empowering to be able to eat real food during your workouts, the same way you do when you sit down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These simple purees are creative, cheap, and the perfect way for you bring that whole-food mentality to your run.

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Comments

  1. Wait, beet, ginger and banana? What kind of sorcery is that? I absolutely need to try some of these recipes, thanks for writing them down!

  2. This is great! I already have several of these pouches from when my kids were a bit littler. We still use them now and again for road trips, but I would have never thought to use them mid-run for myself. Thanks for the recipes!

  3. I pre-ordered the cookbook (to get the bonuses) weeks ago and Barnes & Noble sent me a message on Friday, indicating that the cookbook was no longer available?? Any idea why that would happen.

  4. I love the idea of these portable snack. As I was looking at the recipe with the oatmeal you made me think that I can use the “leftover” from my oat milk and do some little additions…Really cool ! I need to let you know hat I was surprised to cross someone wearing the t-shirt Runs on Plants at the Ottawa half marathon 2 weeks ago. I really like your books and your website, keep going 🙂

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