Energy chews for running — usually they look like square gummy bears, and sometimes they’re actually juiced-up jelly beans! Whatever shape or size they come in, they have similar nutritional qualities for fueling a runner as energy gels, and they have some great benefits for eating before and during your run.
First, there is the difference in texture — if you’re not into swallowing the pudding-like consistency of a gel, energy chews may be a great solution for you! Or, an energy gel packet might be too much to take in all at once (with 100 calories usually found in one packet). If you’d prefer to take in fuel more gradually on the run, popping in a chew every 15 or 20 minutes might make more sense than downing a whole packet of energy gel every 45 minutes. For example, three Clif Bloks chews have about the same calorie content as one energy gel packet. Each packet has six chews, so you have a lot more freedom to tailor your nutrition needs to the preferences of your gut!
As with other forms of nutrition, play around with your favorite flavors and options in terms of extra electrolytes or caffeine. You’ll also want to practice dealing with packaging while out on your run. I find it helpful to slightly tear open a pack of energy chews before my run — it’s easier then than when my hands get all slippery and sweaty on the run. Make the opening just large enough to squeeze a chew out of the top. Then, as you eat, you can twist or fold the packaging over the top and put it back in your pocket. Once you eat a few, it will fit in your shorts pocket just like a gel packet. If you’re on a long run and have more than one package of energy chews, I would use a waist belt or a larger cell phone armband or pocket to hold them.
Others prefer to remove all the chews and put them in a plastic bag prior to running. See what the packaging is for the chews you buy and experiment to find out what works best for you. Test everything out — the packaging, flavors, and how you’ll carry them — well in advance of race day!
OK, chewing and running might seem weird. For some, if you’re breathing heavily or running fast, it might not be a great time to be chewing a mouthful of energy chews. I find that energy chews work best if you eat them one at a time, first biting the chew in half, then holding each half in your cheeks (like a chipmunk!) and slowly chewing the half blocks as you run. Smaller bites like Jelly Belly Sport Beans (yep, the jelly bean people!) are a lot easier to eat, but take care not to drop them!
And, as I’ve said with the energy gels — if it’s cold where you’re running, these are not something easily eaten. Keep them close to your body while running so they stay warm and soft. Cold and frozen chews are no fun!