Avoiding Triggers in My Running Fuel

Y’all, this Great Food Experiment combined with 55k training has been tough!

{On the bright side, hitting my daily steps on my vívofit is not tough when I have a long run scheduled!}

For most trail and ultra runners, I’ve heard that aid stations are the highlight of the course. Not only do you get to see smiling faces and cozy chairs, but the food is glorious! Quesadillas, chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, pb&j sandwiches, Nutella, tomato soup, gummy bears, bean burritos, potato chips, Rice Crispy treats, Oreos and pretzels are just a few of the delightful snacks that I’ve seen at these stations.

Too bad I can barely eat half of those snacks!


As I continue to navigate this mysterious world known as “What Heather Can Eat,” I’m sadly amazed at how many different foods and food ingredients aggravate my inflamed lungs. And as you can imagine, this inflammation is ten times more irritating when I’m running and huffing and puffing. I’ve learned the hard way that some of my ol’ favorite running/trail snacks have been cut from the list, and I realize that the majority of the foods on the Antelope Canyon course will likely be off limits. As a result, I’ve been painstakingly experimenting with snacks, trying to identify what satisfies my nutritional needs while on trail while keeping the lung inflammation at minimum. And, did I mention that I really don’t want to spend $5 million?! So, to Whole Foods I went to do a little exploring.

Here are some of my favorites that keep me going through the miles {along with Serial, the podcast, of course!}

Honey Stingers Gels and Chews

Back in the day, the Honey Stinger waffles were my jam. I love the taste of those things and I used to dip them in coffee for a trailside breakfast. Sadly, my lungs strongly dislike these delightful waffles so they got cut. However, the gels and chews work swimmingly and I’ve experienced zero lung issues while eating them.


Both the gels and chews are organic and use organic honey and organic tapioca syrup, which may be an aide for my weak little pulmonary system. Did I mention they’re kind of yummy too?

Of course, I can only handle gels and chews for so long while I’m out running. After awhile, you want something different, amiright?!


These charming bites of goodness were recently introduced to my food repertoire and I immediately fell in food-love with the Apricot Pecan flavor. They’re totally Paleo which means the ingredients are all easy to pronounce–organic coconut flakes, almonds, pecans, hemp or flax–but they are also easy on my system. They’re offered in a few flavors like Cacao Nib, Sweet Curry and Ginger Snap, but I’m telling you. Go with the Apricot Pecan!

The small clusters are easy to eat while running because you can throw a handful in a ziploc baggie and then graze while you’re on the move. The downside: of the group, these suckers are expensive!


What can I say about LaraBars? Love, love, LOVE them!


Again, LaraBars have easily recognizable ingredients which typically means they play nicely with my system. I also like bars in general while running. Each bar is around 200 calories, so I’ll eat half a bar every 45 minutes and then stash the second half in a pocket in my Jenny vest. No mess and easy to eat while on the move!

They have four zillion flavors available and I haven’t been able to try them all. Lately, I’ve been drawn to the fruitier flavors: Key Lime Pie, Lemon Bar, Blueberry Muffin, Cherry Pie and Coconut Cream Pie. I try to carry a few different flavors during my long run so I can liven things up for the taste buds!

Justin’s Nut Butter

I ask you: who doesn’t love these?!

Since I can’t indulge in Nutella these days, I’ve veered sideways into the deep end of a vat of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut butter. And trust me: I could eat it for days!

Truthfully, my favorite part about these butters is that you can buy them in the smaller, 1.15 oz squeeze packs. I always throw a few of these in my running pack since they are so small and lightweight but super calorie dense. Again, the Chocolate Hazelnut butter is my favorite, but the Vanilla Almond Butter is a close second. And, because they’re obviously mushy, my intestine handle them fairly well when I’m two hours deep into a long run!

Coconut Water


Oddly enough, coconut water has been a lifesaver during my long runs! I’ve been loading up my bladder with plain water but then filling the two 10-oz bottles with coconut water. I sip on the plain water regularly and then take a swig of coconut water every 15-20 minutes. The stuff is super hydrating, so that’s great, and the electrolyte-replacement is fantastic. Plus, I NEVER cramp up when I’m drinking it!

I’m thinking of adding a bit of coconut water to my bladder with the regular water, just so I can think less and constantly drink chug on the electrolytes. Has anyone tried that before? Would that taste weird?!

This post is sponsored by Garmin and Whole Foods Market as part of their #PathtoFit program. The views and opinions expressed above are my own. As part of this project, I’ll be writing weekly for six weeks on the above goals. If you want to join in on the fun, use the above hashtag on social media to share your upcoming goals!


 Any additional fuel options that y’all think I should try?


  • Reply Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen at

    This is really good and reminds me I need to experiment with other options for fueling during long runs. I’ve been using Gus, but I’d like to find something that works a little better. Larabars and the little packets of Justin’s nut butters are good ideas!

    • Reply heather at

      It’s been tricky to start over but in a way, it’s kind of fun. I basically walk in to Whole Foods, stare at the aisle of food and grab something new and different! 🙂

  • Reply Logan at

    I’m a big fan of Larabars, Justin’s Nut Butter, and Kind Bars. Have you tried anything like Tailwind? It’s an electrolyte mix with calories that is gluten/soy/dairy free, if any of those are triggers. I’m not normally one to get my caloric intake from a liquid source, but I’ve found that when I’ve been on the trail for hours, particularly in warmer conditions, I lose all my appetite and eating becomes the absolute last thing I want to do.

    • Reply heather at

      I’ve been talking to Heidi about Tailwind and I still need to try it. Maybe I could figure out a combo of Tailwind with coconut water!

  • Reply Anne at

    A plug for one of my new favorites, Picky Bars. Created by pro athletes and gluten and dairy free.

    My husband I get a box from The Feed each month, and you can request certain products on the website. You can also use the search options on the website to filter through organic/paleo/gluten free, and they stock a lot of options that we had never heard of. They’re basically the reason that we expanded outside Gu’s and Clif products. I remember seeing different vegan options and snack things like jerky, which would be good for an ultra? Ah I just looked at the website for you and now I want a cookies and cream protein bar.

    • Reply heather at

      Turkey jerky would be good! I’m not a huge red meat eater so I don’t love beef jerky, but I should totally try turkey!

  • Reply Katie at

    Huma gels! Coconut water is my thing for ultras I start drinking it halfway through a 50 fill one bottle with it and the other with water to carry. Lifesaver since salt tabs make me violently ill as does nuun etc 🙁 Lara uber bars worked well for me too and kind bars.

    • Reply heather at

      I like Kind bars in real life but they’re a bit too much for me while running. I’ve been talking to some friends about the salt tabs because I havben’t tried them yet. Sounds like maybe I should since you react so poorly to them!

  • Reply Lauren at

    Great list! I love all those snacks! I liked carrying a pack of those honey stinger chews to supplement my fueling inbetween gels or when I needed a boost when I was marathon training!

    • Reply heather at

      They’re tasty!

  • Reply Kendra at

    Hey Heather-
    Love the blog! I add coconut water to my water all the time for trail running/hiking/skiing or even long flights. Whole Foods has powdered coconut water, that you can add to your bladder, so it’s more portable than lugging cartons of water around to add your water, ya know? It comes in Original Flavor and a Pineapple flavor also. both delicious. You can buy it in individual packets, to try how you like it, then buy it in 8oz container.
    Also- Have you tired Hammer Heed? Great for long distance fueling. Not sure how it would affect your lungs but it’s great, drinkable fuel for when your stomach just doesn’t want any more food. I like the orange crème flavor.

    • Reply heather at

      KENDRA! You seriously just made my day with the powdered coconut water! How have I not seen this before?! Is it near the regular coconut water?

  • Reply Lynn at

    Since I can’t do soy, Larabars were pretty much the only bar option for the longest time. I’ve gotten sick of a few of the flavors by now, but I never, ever get sick of the Roasted Nut Roll flavor. I also like salmon jerky for hikes (Trader Joe’s has it), but it’s very “salmon-y”, and the strong flavor might be a little much for running.

    • Reply heather at

      I like a lot of the jerky and whatnot while hiking but I dont’ stomach it very well while running. I LOVE packets of wild caught salmon for backpacking trips but I think the fishy smell would keel me over at mile 20 of the race 🙂

    • Reply Kendra at

      Haha!! its not always in the same place, as no two Whole Foods are alike, but I usually find it in the aisle with all the sports bars. Look for the CocoHydro Packets!! It’s addicting!

      • Reply heather at


  • Reply Chris C. at

    I have a sensitive tummy and can’t consume any electrolyte drink while running. The combination of the sweet drinks with all the gels and stuff I’m already taking in just makes me ill. I’d try coconut water, but I hate carrying the extra weight on top of my regular water. Anyway, during marathon training last summer, I discovered salt pills — I like SaltStick brand. Have you tried these? I take one every 45 minutes or so on long runs, and I never get cramping and feel an immediate energy boost after I take one. They even seem to make sugary energy gels and chews go down easier. I’m pretty sure these are what got me through my marathon with no yakking. 🙂

    • Reply heather at

      My friend Heidi was just telling me about these– I think I need to check them out! Also, see above for what Kendra said about the powdered coconut water. May be worth a shot for you too!

  • Reply Mary at

    I love your blog! I used to live in Colorado and enjoy your posts and pictures. I did a 50k just a few months ago and fueled with whole foods that were pretty inexpensive. I avoid dairy and gluten, so I ate coconut date rolls (or just plain dried dates) and boiled potatoes with salt and Osmo for electrolytes. I’ve had a lot of success and no cramps/discomfort. Although I look a little silly eating potatoes while running, the salt and quick carbs really hit the spot. Good luck!!

    • Reply heather at

      The coconut date rolls is a good idea– I’ve purchased those before and I like them!

  • Reply Hayley@healthyregardshayley at

    Hi Heather! I would suggest Osmo and Breeze Bars. Breeze Bars are a local Boulder, CO gluten free bar and one of the only foods I enjoy eating while running/cycling. I also really love Osmo, a light taste that is easy on the tummy! Not sure what your exact triggers are but I would at least suggest looking into these two (:

    • Reply heather at

      I love supporting local companies so I will definitely check out Breeze Bars. Thanks!

  • Reply Christine @ Love, Life, Surf at

    Figuring out new food options that don’t aggravate your food triggers is tricky! I’m allergic to nuts and peanuts which means that most bars are out for me. Why does everything good have nuts in them? Good luck with the experimenting!

    • Reply heather at

      That would be tough! I can barely think of a few bars that are sans nuts! What do you use instead?

  • Reply CARLA at

    I think the coconut water would be such an odd off taste.

    • Reply heather at

      I kinda thought it would be too but I don’t mind it…yet anyway!

  • Reply Amanda Brooks at

    I found that for me and some of the runners I coach just using dried fruit during the run was a great option. I use very little fuel compared to a lot of people thanks to the LHR training, but that with my ever present Vega seems to be working well.

    • Reply heather at

      Any particular dried fruit? I love dried apricots but I worry that they may do weird things to my stomach 🙂

  • Reply M @readeatwriterun at

    I need to go back and read more to understand your situation – sounds like you’re dealing well with multiple food challenges! (tough, I know as I have some myself – a bunch foisted on me by my GI tract and a few “I don’t eat that”s I’ve chosen).

    I have not tried these myself (I could eat Lara bars and find most of the date-based bars too sugary for me, not enough protein/fiber thus blood sugar & hunger issues) BUT I have heard Brett on Zen & the Art of Triathlon (he’s sponsored) recommending Amrita bars and have recently seen a couple runners recommending them. Seems like they have seeds instead of nuts for those with allergies or other sensitivities. (I avoid peanuts as they’re legumes but could eat them if I had to) https://amritahealthfoods.com

    I wish you the best of luck! If, after reading, I can think of anything else that might help, I’ll comment again. Thanks for sharing your journey, I’m sure you are helping others with similar problems.

    • Reply heather at

      Thanks for the tips! The tricky part with my food disaster is there isn’t a pattern– it’s just trial and error. I’m willing to give anything a try!

  • Reply Heather @ The Shoes Run 50 at

    This post is literally all of my favorite running snacks/fuel. I’m sorry you can’t do the Honey Stinger Waffles anymore because those are some of the yummiest snacks out there!

    • Reply heather at

      They were my faves too! I’ll occasionally have one anyway for breakfast, like a little treat, but I definitely have to avoid them during running since my lungs go so crazy. Sad day!

  • Reply Alyssa at

    Cozy chairs at ultras? I would never get back up! Can you eat potato? Boiled potato dipped in salt is my FAVORITE ultra aid station food. I also like dried apricots for long runs. I’m obsessed with Serial too. I’m on episode 12 and in a depression that it’s about to end.

    • Reply heather at

      You’re like the fifth person to suggest this potato thing so I may give it a try! They don’t typically work too well for me– more on my stomach than anything, kinda heavy– but I could definitely handle some. Plus, I love potatoes.

      Apparently NPR is doing another season with a different story in 2015! I haven’t finished Serial yet since I’m banished from listening until my next long run, but I’m dying to hear how it ends!

  • Reply Kyle Kranz at

    I’ve learned to avoid aid stations, and I’m pretty good with eating whatever I have in front of me. One of my best ultra runs I did off of green tea in a camel bak, tried cherries, and gummy worms. Nothing else entered my mouth for 50 miles and it was perfect. I’ve always found the more variety I have in my stomach while running, the worse I feel. Give me simple fluid calories and maybe a few gels, please 🙂

    • Reply heather at

      I really need to try Tailwind since I’ve heard awesome things about it AND it seems like I could get a large portion of my calories from the liquid. I kinda like having snacks to munch on though– breaks up the race for me. Like, oh another 15 minutes til I get a snack! Apparently I’m like a Pavlovian dog and respond well to food 🙂

  • Reply Linda @ TheFitty at

    Quest bars, maybe?

  • Reply Miles Traiser at

    I stand 100% behind Honey Stinger. I alternate between Ginsting gels (with caffeine) and Honey waffles on the bike and exclusively Ginsting gels for running.

  • Reply Lani Yearicks (@armytbonegirl) at

    I love my Generation UCAN!! And they just came out with UCAN Snack bars as well. Check them out at http://generationucan.com/currentproduct.html and if you’re interested in trying anything from there, shoot me and email and I can get you a discount code for 10% off!

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