Spartans push their minds and bodies. Spartans master their emotions.
Easier said than done, of course. I’m a Spartan, and I need premium fuel to see me through training and race day without a meltdown—a constant drip of high-quality carbs and protein to prevent me from catching a severe case of the hangries or, worse, completely bonking.
I’m not the only one obsessed with performance fuel as evidenced by the seemingly endless array of sports gels, gum, chews, beans, shots, and drinks on the market. However, instead of spending my hard-earned money on expensive sports nutrition products that may or may not have the macronutrients I need, I prefer to take a DIY approach and make my own. I’m sharing one of my go-to recipes: Mocha Honey Protein Sticks.
The primary ingredient, honey, is an excellent foundation for race-day fuel. Honey is a natural source of straightforward glucose and fructose that will keep your body primed for peak performance. The natural sugar carbs in honey feed your brain to keep it happy and prevent, or at least delay, it from telling your central nervous system that you’ve been running way too long.
For exercise that lasts more than two hours, include a bit of protein in your fuel at an approximate 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio. I’ve used soy protein powder in this homemade energy gel for its specific amino acid profile, which many experts cite is the best for long-distance events.
Also included in this easy DIY race fuel recipe: a bit of black strap molasses and salt to pump up the electrolytes potassium and sodium, plus a shot of espresso for the caffeine, which is a proven (and legal) performance enhancer.
Making the Mocha Honey Protein fuel simply requires whisking together honey, molasses, espresso, protein powder, and salt. Even easier, I like to use an empty honey or squirt bottle to shake everything up. This fuel can be poured right into a small race flask or, as I show here, made into sticks cleverly crafted from plastic drinking straws.
Getting the gel in the straws is relatively easy, though it might take a couple of tries to get the hang of sealing off the ends (more on that later). You can make the straws full length, or cut to any size to fit a pocket. Not pictured, but I prefer to use “fat” straws when available because they hold more volume.
To use the energy straws, simply tear off the top with your teeth (sorry mom) while on the course. Slurp up the contents, which won’t make you gag or choke like some thick gels, and dispose of the straw properly.
Each serving (one-fifth of the recipe) has 100 calories, 0.5g fat, 21g carbohydrates, 3.8g protein, 264mg sodium, 150mg potassium, and about 10mg caffeine.
Mocha Honey Protein Sticks
• ⅓ cup chocolate protein powder
• 1 ounce espresso (or water if preferred)
• 5 tablespoons honey
• 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 10 to 12 drinking straws
• Needle-nose pliers
Mix together protein powder with espresso. Warm honey in microwave for 10 seconds and whisk in protein powder, molasses, and salt. Or add all ingredients to an empty squirt bottle and shake until completely incorporated—this creates one less step to get the gel into the straws.
Clamp a drinking straw off at one end with the needle-nose pliers. Hold over a flame until the end seals. Use a squirt bottle or small spoon to fill straw up to nearly to the top, leaving ½-inch clearance. Clasp the top with the pliers and hold over flame to seal. Let cool and wipe away any goo that may have oozed out.
The mixture may also be poured in a small reusable gel flask or stirred into water, as desired. No refrigeration required.