How To Fuel Your Running (Part 2)

On Tuesday we talked about what to eat before a run.  There was some great discussion in the comments and I updated the post with recommendations from some of you. Keep your suggestions coming – I love it!

Just a quick reminder that I am NOT a nutritionist – this is just what works for me. It may or may not work for you. This is intended as my opinion based on my experience, so you can make your own decision.

Running Fuel

Today, let’s focus on what to eat while you’re running. The first question is when should you eat and/or drink during a run? For me, I get thirsty early and typically bring water with me on any run over 3 miles. For many people, water isn’t needed until over 5 or 6 miles. Experiment here and find out what works for you.

For shorter runs, I’ve started carrying a hand bottle. I also use this in long distance races where I don’t mind refilling the bottle along the way. For longer runs, and races where I don’t want to slow down for refills, I use a FuelBelt with 4 bottles. I typically just fill these with water, but have also used a sports drink in both styles.

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                                         (source)

For runs more than 90 minutes, I add calories to the plan. Adding calories is when things get a little tricky for me. I mentioned I have a sensitive stomach – it’s the worst while I’m running. Right now, I’m using Vega Sport Gels for my longer runs. They are made from whole foods, all natural, and feel the best in my stomach. They have more of a texture than most other gels I’ve tried – which I love (but Kirk doesn’t like). After drinking the pre-workout energizer 20 minutes before my run, I eat 1 Vega Gel every 4.5 miles throughout the run.

Other gels I have tried with mixed results are Powerbar Gels (not quite as natural) and Clif Shots. If you can handle a little more solid food while you run, check out the chews on the market, like the Clif Blocks. There are so many flavors and types of sports nutrition to choose from, there’s bound to be something you will like!

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I have tried many different things throughout the years and I’m still figuring out what my body can handle. I know that the closer to liquid, the better; the closer to solid, the more discomfort! I love running with all liquids, but it gets more difficult to carry enough calories in liquid form to fuel a long distance run.

Most people don’t have as many issues with tolerating nutrition as I do, but do test your nutrition strategy during your training and see what works for you. I would also suggest trying out your nutrition as higher speeds, to be sure you can still “stomach it” when your heart rate is elevated. If you remember my last half marathon, what worked well during training DID NOT work well during the race. Learn from my mistakes. =)

Now it’s your turn! What are your tips for nutrition while you’re running? Any favorites or ones you abhor? Any questions I didn’t address?

Comments

  1. says

    I’m not a fan of the “goos” personally. It’s a texture thing. What I do is wrap a date (or 2 or 3…) and keep it in my short pocket. It’s the perfect sugar shot for me, and it doesn’t feel like it’s “jiggling” in my stomach causing cramps. Drinking anything is still a challenge for me due to the jiggle issue.
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…Peanut Butter Banana Baked OatmealMy Profile

    • says

      It is a bit of an aquired taste – but it’s a great concentrated form of calories. I think I like the Vega gels because it’s not the typical goo texture. I tried just dates on a run, but it’s hard to carry enough for a long run (they are only about 25 calories a piece).

      I only have the jiggle issue if I drink too much at a time – I just slow down and let it pass. Maybe smaller sips?

  2. says

    I am the same way- sensitive tummy! I just started using Cliff Shot Bloks in the last 2 years (or so) and before that didn’t use anything. Seriously. Yes, I did a marathon, too. Very dumb move, hence the rough race, but ya live and learn.

    I definitely think that it is something each person has to figure out on their own. What works for one person probably won’t work for another.

    Great idea on this as a series!

    • says

      Wow – a marathon with no nutrition, I don’t think I would make it to the finish line! Definitely a lot to learn in running. :) I agree 100% that nutrition is so different for each person – it’s a good thing there are so many choices. :)

      • says

        Yea that was when I first got serious about running. HUGE mistake. I was fine through mile 20, then those last 6 I felt like death! Ha! I finished (4:30), but was so unhappy with the time. I did grab a GU at a station, but having never used it before I don’t know if it helped at all or not. I would never do that again and wish I could warn anyone considering it. I still can’t believe I did that. I remember reading about people that fueled during, but I knew how touchy my tummy could be, so didn’t bother trying to practice with different options.

        • says

          I want to do another full eventually, but get so nervous just thinking back to how horrible those last 6 miles were for me. I love halfs and feel I run them (somewhat) competitively, but that is because I finally got a fueling plan that works for me.
          I’ll stop now. I could go on and on for days about this! =)

        • says

          Do you know how many years & marathons it took me to hit 4:30?! ;)

          I hope this series (and others like it) will help others avoid that no-fuel mistake. Let’s spread the word!!

  3. Lee says

    Depending on where I’m going, I have a handheld Nathan water bottle that I’ll use but sometimes, if i can, I’ll plan a route that has a gas station or store in the middle and that way I don’t have to hold the water bottle the whole time. I usually will bring water if it’s more than 5 miles. As for fuel, I usually will do it if I run more than 7 miles. I prefer Chocolate flavored GU to anything else but sometimes I also bring Sportbeans because I think they taste good.
    Lee recently posted…The Day that Got AwayMy Profile

    • says

      I have gotten used to holding the hand bottle, but I think that’s just because I don’t really have to “hold it”, the elastic keeps it in my hand. When I hold Kirk’s bottle for him while he takes off his jacket (or whatever), it bothers me to hold his normal round bottle. I couldn’t do that!

      I’ve heard of people using small things (like sportbeans) to count off miles during long races. Like having 13 in a bag for a half marathon and eating one every mile. :)

    • says

      I would describe them as textured – like if you made a gel at home and it doesn’t blend to completely smooth. I order mine online, at Vitacost.com, which is usually around 20% cheaper than the regular price.

  4. says

    Seriously so, so happy you did this series. I’m nervous about figuring out what works for me. How do you know if something that works in training is going to turn around and bite you during the race? SO MANY THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT! Ahhhhhhhhhh
    Carol @ Lucky Zucca recently posted…Thankful ThursdayMy Profile

    • says

      You can never guarantee that something won’t upset your tummy during the race, but the best way to test it out is to make sure you do some miles at the pace you’re going to race while testing your nutrition – that way you can see how you body responds when you’re working harder (and your HR is higher). Don’t be worried – you’re going to have fun!! :)

    • says

      You can get single Powergel packs at Kroger in near the organic section – where the protein powders and bars are. You can also find a selection of single gels at stores like Big Peach Running Company. :)

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