Worthwhile getting in the habit or using them or not?

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30/07/2012 at 11:38


OK, so I've done a 10 mile plod in my marathon training and i'm about to start doing longer distances, is it worth getting in the habit of trying to take gels whilst running or is it just not worth it? 

If not gels, and i'm running say 12 - 20ish miles should i be taking anything else if so what? Water... that seems a lot heavier to carry then a few Gel bars?

I don't really have any idea so i'm throwing it out there for your clever people

30/07/2012 at 11:40

Oh.. one of the reasons is i'm thinking of how do I carry them or water, a big pack, a small bum/thigh bag? or i've seen a gel strap that's barely more then a strap that you can put them in and can hold an inhaler, and if you want a phone etc... Just wondering if I should get something like this and get in the habit of wearing it, or if it's just all a waste of money and just need to carry a small rucksack or something with water in it.

30/07/2012 at 11:48

When I run more than 12 miles - i'll use gels (SiS and Powergel). It all depends on your race day strategy - how are you planning to run the marathon? On gels? food? Energy drinks? This will dictate how you prepare and work in your training.

I have a waist belt from Camelback that has:
- 1 500ml bottle (i use water)
- 2 locked pouches. I use one for gels/flapjacks and the other for keys/inhaler/tissues.

You should never try anything new on race day so you need to make sure that in your preparation runs you're trying out the different fuelling methods to see what works for you.

If you're going out in hot weather - you'll need water and if you're using a non-isotonic gel (e.g. powerbar) you'll need water to slurp it down.


30/07/2012 at 12:01

Thanks Emmy.  This is me trying to decide what my race day strategy will be

Gels, seem a way of hopefully avoiding the dreaded wall, mind you i'm so slow i might not have that issue.... anway.  I'm thinking Gels (carrying my own around, possibly every half hour, not sure if mean to be that or every 20ish min) and water from the oncourse watering holes. If so, then I guess I should train with Gels and a watter bottle and drink every 5k to emulate on course water. (wll check to see if that's how often they are in my race).

Does that seem a reasonable thing to get in the habit of doing for anything over 10m or just overkill?


30/07/2012 at 12:29

Best thing is to try a load of different things out on your training runs and see how you get on.  Personally I don't like the gels so I have some jelly babies or something similar, dried apricots or flapjack.  I'm not super speedy though so it's not all swilling around in my belly!!   I have a waist belt too that takes a couple of bottles and has pockets for other stuff. 

30/07/2012 at 12:39

So... I guess I should get some sort of belt, and go from there arrgh it's all soooo complicated

30/07/2012 at 12:51

Steph I would go with what Emmy_bug said - do the same in training as you would on race day. Every long run over 10 mile start introducing a gel or 2 - I usually have one half way on a 10 miler and 12 miler and 3 for a 15 miler (1 every 5 miles) and so on

- every 45 minutes during a marathon is enough to avoid the "Wall" and a light brakfast (300-500 Kcals),if your body is used to the gels from training you know there won't be any bad reactions on race day

Tip: even if water is provided by the organisers don't rely on it (they've been known to run out) - best to carry your own just in case - that way you can take gels at whatever stage you wish (topping up your bottle belt now and again if water is there)

Best of luck!

Andy ( )



30/07/2012 at 12:53

by the way, I use high-five energy gels on an elasticated belt, like the one you mentioned - you can just wash these down with water - this works well for me!

Edited: 30/07/2012 at 12:54
30/07/2012 at 13:04

@Steph - I'd try out as much as you can. I'm not fast (5 hour marathoner) and I'm slowly coming round to the idea of flapjacks because i have issues with taking on anything after 19 miles. I love them.

A friend of mine gave me "shot blocks" to try for this weekends run and i'll see how i get on. I'd much rather try and fail during training than fail during a race!

I also carry my own water - but that's because in hot weather I put a nuun (electrolyte tablet) in it. It helps keep off stomach cramps and stitches.

30/07/2012 at 14:07

Thanks everone.  That's exactly the sort of thing that I wanted to know

The every 5 miles is great. I'm a bit slower than you I think so it might be every 6 or 7k for me

But i'll get some and experiment I think i'm going to try the high5 thing as they do a box with some gels in and the belt for about £15 so seems a good starting point.  Do that and carry a hand bottle that takes 500ml and see where i go from there.


30/07/2012 at 14:11

I'll just throw a spanner in your thinking. Part of the training for the marathon is to train your body to get its energy from burning fat and to increase your capacity to store glycogen.

I take no carbohydrate at all on any runs. The excpetion is when you are experimenting to see what works digestion wise. Therefore I would just take one gel towards the end of some of your longer runs.

The theory is that you complete deplete your glycogen levels on your long run the body then compensates by storing more each time. During the race you then prevent your stores from running out completely by taking Gels etc.

Someone will probably explain why I'm totally wrong though.

I take a backpack out on runs over 15miles, I tend to use over 500ml of water which is hard to carry. It's 2litre but only half fill it.

30/07/2012 at 14:12

I was told roughly every 30 minutes you should be taking on a gel but I think that depends on you/your body/how fast you're running etc.

Play around, experiment and see what is best for you.

Good luck with your training!

30/07/2012 at 16:12

Do what suits you and take a spare gel with you as they can fall out of your belt! I tried a couple of HM's with no gel, just relying on water but I found the last 3 miles hard work so I have gone back to using gels at 60 mins then every 30. I also use the High 5 gels, banana to be exact and buy them in bulk as they're cheaper that way.

30/07/2012 at 17:04

Agree with TimR. One of the most important parts of the long run is to get your body trained to store more glycogen. So, yes, do practice with Gels, and decide on the strategy for race day, but don't let gels become a regular part of your training runs

Note also that some Gels must be taken with water (e.g. Lucozade), while others can be taken on their own  (e.g. SIS). I choose not to take them in line with water stations, so something like SIS Go Gels are perfect.

30/07/2012 at 17:39
Cheers. I can understand that about not
Getting to much into you and letting your body learn.

Lots to think about
30/07/2012 at 17:56
I only take gels if I am running more than a half marathon. My routine long runs when not training for anything are 18 miles and I usually take a gel after 13 miles. Though that said the other week my gel fell out and I still managed to complete the run at near my usual speed.
30/07/2012 at 18:36
I think the question is how fast/long are you running for. It's supposed to take 30minutes for the gels to take effect. So if you're running a 2 hour half marathon you need to take one after an hour of running and there's then no point in taking one at 1:30.

I was quite surprised when I saw people carrying them on half marathons, and even more surprised when I saw people carryingvthem on a 10k earlier this year. What's the point in that?

18miles, I'll have a handful of jelly babies to keep me company after 14 miles. Psychological help more than anything I think for me.
30/07/2012 at 18:46
@tim - I've seen people using gels on a 5k....

I recommend just trying everything and anything on your long runs. You need to know what your body likes /dislikes/refuses before race day. It's doing trial and error that I know that I can't take anything nut related on whilst I'm running as I throw up... But flapjacks are a great treat at mile 17.
30/07/2012 at 18:47

It's more how slow then how fast I'm a newbie this is about getting around 5h probably over.

30/07/2012 at 18:54
@steph- to give you a comparison for what I do (as I'm a similar speed):

- runs up to 10 miles: nothing. Only water in hot weather
- half marathon: 1 gel and water
- long runs up to 18 miles: 1 gel after 8k then every 45 mins after that.

In marathons I normally stop with gels after mile 20 and if I need a pick me up - I'll have some jelly beans. I'm trying to teach my body to not rely on the sugar stores so am replacing gels with a flapjack or malt loaf/something similar.

I know a friend of mine who has a bumbag full of 'snacks'. She's great to run with as she always carries 'proper food'.... On one ultra she took cheese sandwiches, a packet of crisps and some liquorice all sorts! It warlike she had a Mary poppins bag of tricks!
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