Experience From - Mike Cunningham , Dina , Peter Bakwin , Eric Ivey , Ray Zirblis ,

Mike Cunningham

Vida wrote:

From time to time, when I read a report, I notice that some ultrarunners use 'grade B maple syrup' for their long runs, or or racing. why Grade B, and not Grade A?

Or, put in a less cheeky way, what is it about maple syrup that makes it superior to other carbo sources that ultra runners ingest (gu, powergel, etc) during high-exertion events or long runs? How much should I take along, if I am to go out for a couple hours' run on a weekend? Do I mix it with the water that I will drink? Or do I pour it into one of those 4oz hammer-gel containers? Do I use it like GU, an ounce every hour?

After having read about grade b maple syrup & searched the archives, I tried it in a recent 1/2 marathon.

Grade B is cheaper & is in fact cheaper than Gu, etc. I used the regular grade A that I had in the refrigerator. I put mine in one of those 4 -5 oz containers and took a shot after an hour then another shot after 1 1/2 hours. I expected a spike of energy but it never happened. I just seemed to be able to run at a good clip with no letdown like I get from bars or the expensive single serving packets. The taste was incredible like getting a mouthful of maple candy, that alone was great.

This is definitely something to try.

No interest in Maple products although I do have a big sugar maple tree outside my house.


A very good runner who places high in races recommended organic maple syrup. He puts it in one of the small squeeze flasks and takes a 'hit' off it about every 15 minutes. He says that keeps the energy level more constant than Powergel or GU, which cause highs and lows, and that the maple syrup burns really clean.

I tried it during one 50k race, and first of all I had the wrong kind of container. Spilled a lot on my clothes and hands. I didn't get the kind of kick that I am accustomed to with GU and Powergel, and I seemed to run out of gas much faster. It probably works, but I feel I need the antioxidants and the variety of flavors that you get with the traditional gels.

Peter Bakwin

Brown rice syrup works very well too. It is the main ingredient in Clif Shots. I sometimes thicken it with rice or oat flour and add flavoring. On its own it has a nice malty flavor. I costs about $4 for a 20 oz. jar, and you can get it at most health-food stores.

Does anyone know where to purchase pure maltodextrin? It is the main ingredient in Power Gel.

Eric Ivey

I've gone from gel to gel to syrup to applesauce trying to figure out what works best for me and found that while plain syrup does work well, the taste just gets old after awhile. Clif Shot is 100% all natural and uses brown rice syrup as the main ingredient so it gives me the same energy level as syrup (not spikey, more sustained and long-term). The only thing I don't like that they've done recently is switch to 100 calorie packets. They used to sell 200 calorie tubes that were much more efficient I thought because they had twice as many cals as any other packet, for about the same price. Regardless, I still have a lot of success with the new packets and they keep the flavors interesting.

I also have no financial interest in Clif products (or any other products for that matter).

Ray Zirblis

I, too, have been amused at the recommendation of grade B maple syrup, living as I do in Vermont, where sugaring is part of the culture and having sugared many seasons myself.

Grade B syrup is a little cheaper than the Grade A's (Fancy, light, medium and dark amber). Also IMO it tastes better, that is, it's darker and sappier (if that's a word.) However, you can get 'C' production grade syrup, too, but need to buy in bulk. I don't know if there is a significant calorie difference. I do know that syrup and sugar have a long tradition as energy food up here. First, among native americans and frontiersmen and, later, as an ingredient of 'switchel,' the Gator Aid of 19th century New England. Switchel was the particular beverage of choice for the the long hard work of making hay, and old timers and some of us newer part time farmers still bring it out to the fields today. Haven't tried it running, but I've worked harder bucking hay than on many runs.

Formula and ingredients vary, but you start with water, cider, or hard cider, add some cider vinager for the fizz, also lots of maple syrup or sugar, powdered or root ginger, and a little molasses. Maybe a pinch or nutmeg or salt. You can also dump in some booze or whatever homemade beer you've got cooking--alchohol was traditionally considered a stimulant-- but that's optional today. It's an acquired taste, but so is making hay. Or distance running.