Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Homebrew Energy Gel

During a long day in the mountains, I go through several 1oz “shots” of energy gel. Even when purchased in bulk, brand name energy gels are very expensive per ounce. When a friend of mine introduced me to a “homebrew” recipe for energy gel, I had to give it a try. Using his recipe as a start, I tweaked the ingredients and process, and added a few more options for flavors. In addition to the satisfaction of making my own energy gels, I’ve found that they work very well and are cheap to make. Also, my ability to alter ingredients in accordance with my own needs is a big plus.

How It’s Made

The equation for Homebrew Energy Gel can be written as follows:

Base Powder + Flavor Powder(s) + Base Liquid = Homebrew Energy Gel

The following recipe makes about 42oz of Homebrew Energy Gel. It is less viscous than other brand name energy gels. This allows it to flow better (especially in cold environments). If you find that it is not thick enough for your tastes, add more pectin. Like other energy gels, it will work best when consumed with water. Be sure to keep the energy gel refrigerated as there are no preservatives in it. 

STEP 1: Boil 51oz of Apple Juice until there is only 14oz of liquid left. While the Apple Juice is boiling, move onto STEP 2.

STEP 2: Mix the following base powder ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly (use a kitchen scale to measure and a whisk to mix):

  • 500g Maltodextrin
  • 93g Brown Sugar
  • 2400 mg Caffeine
  • 18g Sea Salt

STEP 3: Add one of the following flavor powders to the base powder and mix thoroughly

Orange: 60g Orange Gatorade Powder

Lemon Lime: 60g Lemon Lime Gatorade Powder

Fruit Punch: 60g Fruit Punch Gatorade Powder

Strawberry: Two 4oz packets of Strawberry KoolAid concentrate

Apple Cinnamon: 9g Cinnamon

STEP 4: Once the Apple Juice is done boiling, turn the heat down to simmer. Add 16oz Agave Nectar and 1tbsp lemon juice. Stir quickly for 20 seconds.

STEP 5: Add the powder mixture to the liquid mixture. Whisk thoroughly and then blend on a low setting for 15 seconds or until all clumps are gone.

STEP 6: Add 3 teaspoons pectin with citric acid and stir thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a large gel dispenser and let it sit for 24 hours before using.

Where to Purchase the Ingredients

Apple Juice: Grocery Store


Brown Sugar: Grocery Store


Sea Salt: Grocery Store

Flavor Powders: Grocery Store

Agave Nectar: Grocery Store or Health Foods Store

Lemon Juice: Grocery Store

Disclaimer: Make at your own risk. Pay attention to potential food allergies (if you have any).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grandes Jorasses Speed Solo

This video has been making its rounds throughout the mountaineering community. If you haven't already seen it, you need to. What you are about to see is truly mind blowing. 

"On the 28th Dec 2008 Ueli Steck blasted his was up the north face of the Grandes Jorasses in another record time. Moving on from his 2.47hrs ascent of the Eiger north face in February earlier on this year he arrived in Chamonix on the 27th with his eyes on the north face classic- the Colton-Macintyre (VI,6)... Steck climbs up a 1200m face, with some very bare and tricky mixed at the top and sections of 95 degree ice in the middle, at an approximate ascent rate of 10m a minute."
-Summary from Alpine Exposures (Jonathan Griffith)

New Wallpaper for May & June

I've released two more editions of my monthly desktop wallpaper:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Strength Training for the Backcountry Athlete

Throughout my athletic career, I’ve heard the “weights or no weights” debate too many times to count. I’ve heard many comments from fellow athletes along the lines of:

“You don’t need to do strength exercises if you’re a runner.” The best way to train for climbing is to climb.” “I’m already strong enough.”

Having experimented with lots of different exercises and weight training programs for a variety of activities, I’ve come to a few conclusions:

1. Core strength (abs, lower-mid back) is important for almost any athletic activity. Whether you’re trying to keep your form intact at the end of a long race, perform a powerful heel hook or swing a bat, you will benefit from solid core strength.

2. Flexibility is underrated and underutilized. It’s important for injury prevention and it allows you to build muscle without getting muscle-bound, a condition that limits range of motion and can lead to injury. Flexibility also improves performance and energy efficiency. If you’re a runner, an extra inch on your stride multiplied by thousands of steps equals a materially faster time. If you’re a climber, being able to raise your leg higher means reaching that foothold that was previously out of reach (without pulling your hammy).

3. For athletic activities that require lots of strength, you will reach a natural “plateau” without strength training. Your body will get used to performing the same movements over and over, and you won’t get any stronger. At some point, you need to mix up your training with strength specific exercises to reach the next level.

4. Context and balance are key. Everyone has seen the local gym rats that only lift upper body. It’s a wonder that their chicken legs can support their teetering massive upper bodies. It’s nonsensical and nontransferable to athletic activities. Match your training to your activity. If you’re a runner, focus on core strength, not your biceps. During my junior year in college, I started lifting too much upper body (I was an XC runner). I was 6’2, 160lbs and I could bench press 230 lbs. I got slow. As soon as I started doing only core strength exercises, I lost 10 lbs and dropped a minute off of my 8k time. Now that I’m a mountaineer, I would love to get back to 160lbs and 230lbs on the bench press.

5. Focus on building strength (not “getting ripped”) and keeping opposite muscles in balance. If you train your quads, be sure to train your hamstrings as well. Imbalances among opposite muscle groups can lead to injury. Good climbers, mountaineers and backcountry skiers should aim for solid overall strength and cardio conditioning.

While I realize that the debate is still open, I’m personally convinced (based on my own experiences) that supplementary strength training is very helpful for sports like climbing, mountaineering and backcountry skiing. Alex Lowe agreed and his climbing partners said that he was a “level above everyone else.” Perhaps he was on to something. In Jackson, WY and Boulder, CO, there is a gym called Mountain Athlete that subscribes to a training philosophy for climbers and mountaineers that is similar to mine. On their website, they have links to a variety of videos (36 to date) that feature strength exercises that are geared toward climbers. Below, you can see an exercise called “Alligator Pushups.” It’s not hard to see how this one would be useful for climbers.