I’m not a big girl by any stretch of the imagination. But because of how active I am between teaching and training, I eat constantly. I eat breakfast, I eat a snack. I eat lunch, I eat two snacks….you get the deal.
So, when you’re running for literally hours on end, simply by virtue of the fact that you’re out there for hours, you’re gonna need to fuel. Factor that in the fact that you’re burning a tremendous amount of calories, and sweating a ton, and you’re going to be dragging hardcore if you don’t figure out how to fuel. Training for a half or a full? Let me help you decide what you’re going to need to stay chugging for 13.1, 26.2, or maybe even ultra-marathon mileage!
|What is it/When do I need it?||Pros||Cons|
|Water (hydration)||Hydration is going to be the biggest key to you not bonking. I’m a camel, so I need a lot. But generally the rule of thumb is if you’re going to be running (in normal temps) for over an hour, you need to build water stops into your run. Drop water along your route before, run by a few coffee shops you know won’t mind giving you water, or wear a fuel belt, camel back, or a little handheld. All available at your local Fleet Feet!||It’s water!||Don’t overdo it. If you slam too much to quickly, it can cause you to cramp, so just swallow little mouthfuls at a time. Also swishing and spitting is great for sticky runners mouth.|
|Nuun (Electrolyte enhanced drink tabs)||Nuun is not a water replacement, but it helps to replace sodium and electrolytes you may have lost in a long run. A few of the flavors contain a little bit of caffeine if you need the boost, too.||This is a great alternative to a Gatorade, (which doesn’t suck either) because they’ve cut down on the sugar, while still maintaining the electrolyte replacement aspect. If you’re watching your weight too, it’s low-cal!||Generally, it tastes okay but dang I have come across some nasty flavors! Pick one you like, and stick with it! Even if you’re not running, sip on on one throughout the day. (Also great for hot yoga).|
|Sport Beans||Sport beans are energizing jelly beans are formulated to help you blast through any long run. You take these guys about 30 minutes before activity, and continue as needed throughout activity. Consume with water!||They come in a convenient little pack, and they’re full of carbs, electrolytes, as well as energizing vitamins.||They are really sweet, which is fine for some people, but they sort of made my teeth hurt. Consume with a lot of water to cut the sugar.|
|Gu||Gu is a thick energy gel that comes in a convenient little aluminum pouch thingie. I think I have a pack in my nutrition drawer. It comes in a host of different flavors, both caffeinated and uncaffeinated and it delivers carbs, electrolytes, and calories in a swift little 100-calorie punch. The conventional thoughts on these is you pound on 15 minutes prior to a long run, and every 45 minutes after.||Energy! These little guys are super powerful, and the Roctane in particular really give you that extra boost that you may need to push through the last 6 miles, especially of a marathon. Some people really find that they like the flavors of these things as well!||Firstly, I’m not particularly partial to the taste of these. They get the job done, but they’re difficult to choke down. Also, **they are rough on your stomach** and I will leave it at that. Experiment with these before race day, because you may find yourself making a few extra ladies-room breaks.|
|PowerBar Energy Gel||Same exact idea as the Gu, but a little thinner of a consistency. Same wisdom applies here, 15 before, and every 45 minutes after.||Much better tasting, and the thinner consistency makes it a little easier to swallow (heh heh, no pun intended) with a good bit of water. I find it a little easier on your tummy as well!||If you’re really really sensitive, this may have a similar effect that Gu does on your stomach. Once again, experimenting during training is super necessary to prevent any surprises.|
|Shot Blocks||My personal favorite, these guys come in a gummy stick form partitioned out for consumption. I usually don’t break into these until about 40 minutes in, and eat whenever my blood sugar starts to dip a little bit, before I bonk. Again, it’s important to take this with a hearty helping of water.||They come in a ton of flavors, and they’re caffeinated, so you’ll feel a little boost as soon as you eat it. They’re not too sweet, and not too hard on your stomach.||Some folks hate the idea of eating something while you run. I have no issue with it, but it’s definitely valid!|
This list is by no means exhaustive, but in my search, these popped up as the faves!This stuff can be purchased at your local running or outdoor-type store. But may I suggest, if you have a Fleet Feet in your area, that you look them up and visit them! If they don’t have something, they’ll know where you can get it, and staff there usually has tried everything at least once.
And last but not least, for folks who have dietary restrictions, your training is the time to experiment with things so that you’re not faced with a potentially dangerous or ugly surprise on race day. I spoke with Mike Chappell, who’s a diabetic AND a local runner about this, and to fuel, he puts a lot of thought into what he eats the entire day, not just in the moments leading up to run time. In addition, if you’re a vegetarian, read your labels…some of this stuff contains animal product from time to time.
Feel free to add your fuel of choice in the comments below! Hope my handy chart helps!