Fuelling long runs without gels/powdered drinks

Anyone done it?

41 to 60 of 104 messages
08/01/2013 at 14:07
cougie wrote (see)
How many calories are you planning on taking on ?
Its only a marathon so you don't need a huge amount of food to get round.
Gels are probably 100 calories or so - so a lot of people would be talking of 4 or 500 calories on the race ? The more eating you do - the more digestion the body has to do and you want the body to focus on running - not digesting lunch.

Do you know, I have no idea!  I was just thinking that you just eat stuff periodically to keep me going.  Need to eat before I get hungry and I get proper stressed, grumpy and feel fatigued if I get hungry on a run.  Really hadn't thought about how much I would need during the run.  It's going to take me about 6 hours, so I guess taking on 100 calories an hour would be about right?

08/01/2013 at 15:53

High 5 Energy gels (kind to the stomach) have 80 cals per 30ml sachet and a caffeine kick.

You will burn upward of 100-125 cals per mile and a fully fueled adult should start with c 2,600 cals on board if correct pre-race nutrition has taken place.

I ran 2 maras last year and got through about 3,200-3,350 cals per race (from Garmin) so I had to cover a deficit of 600-750 cals during the races.

I covered this by using the Lucozade drinks (330 ml) on course and about 7 of the gels. I took my first gel on the start line to cover the early morning rush and excitement and then regularly all the way through. You simply can't take the first on at mile 20! as they take about 20 minutes to work though the system.

In my first race I ran a massive negative split (my fastest mile was mile 25) and the second was run in dead even splits, so 2nd HM same as first. Second mara was fastest overall in 3:24:12 so all I can say is - it worked for me.

NB I practiced this routine for weeks leading into the race so I knew it would work on the day.

08/01/2013 at 16:00

Mike, are you saying that I should start the race having already eaten 2,600 calories?!


cougie    pirate
08/01/2013 at 16:21

TST - you'll have that stored in your body - dont sit down to a slap up 2600 calorie breakfast !

I think 100 cals a mile is a decent average for most people - the calculation is here :



TST you should easily have enough energy stored in your body for say a 15 mile run - so you might need to make up 1100 calories or so - but thats what the long runs are for. As you do more of them - you get used to fuelling yourself and you see what you can do. 

You dont need gels or food for a half marathon - but once you start the long runs - you need to practice what you're planning to do. 

08/01/2013 at 16:33

Phew, was panicking a bit then that I'd have to have a massive breakfast!!  Usually just have some porridge and apricots before a run and that's nowhere near that many calories!

I usually have breakfast and then wait an hour before going out, but I found on Saturday I was hungry by the time I got home after 1:45 out on the road (so about 3 hours since I'd eaten breakfast).  A 15 mile run would take me a bit over 3 hours and I'd definitely want to be eating before then as 4 hours between eating would be way too long without food for me personally.

Think I'm just going to have to play with things; take bits out with me, note when I'm getting hungry, see how I get on with eating various bits and keep a diary of it all!

08/01/2013 at 16:36

I'm totally ignorant about all this but also trying to plan my strategy for fuelling during a marathon so I can start practising...

So: does the c2,600 calories depend on height, weight etc. too? Or would a small, light runner be able to store enough to get through the race without taking on as many extra calories with the right pre-race nutrition?

08/01/2013 at 16:36

From available data we have on average 83,000 Kcal (yes, eighty three thousand) stored in our bodies as fat. We have about 2000 kcals stored as glycogen.

Bearing in mind that glycogen is generally burned off at high running intensities, I can't see that it would make much difference around here.

You seem to be more interested in eating than running. 

Empty tummy syndrome yes, glycogen depletion I doubt.

08/01/2013 at 16:37
Two-Stroke Tart wrote (see)

Ali - I'm planing to do loops in different directions out of town so I come back past my house several times when the runs get longer, that way I can pick up food and drink, and go to the loo!

Me too. Luckily my house is around mile 14 of the MK Marathon so I'm planning to have my hubby standing ready to let me in for the loo and pick up some yummy snacks to take with me

08/01/2013 at 16:43

No Ric, I'm not more interested in eating than running.  I need to make sure I fuel properly so that I don't pass out on the road, something which the dietician I have been referred to by the doctor is also keen on me not doing. 

08/01/2013 at 16:46
V4D wrote (see)

Me too. Luckily my house is around mile 14 of the MK Marathon so I'm planning to have my hubby standing ready to let me in for the loo and pick up some yummy snacks to take with me

  That sounds perfect V4D!  And at least you know the loo will be clean and have toilet roll!!

08/01/2013 at 16:49

You're kidding me surely?

 Do you really think that will happen if you don't have breakfast?

In all seriousness. Just avoid really sugary stuff and stick to protein. Your muscles already have all the fuel they need. The protein will help repair any damage your muscles incure during a long run. And any run over 2 hours 30 minutes will be really tough. 5 hours doesn't bear thinking about.

Edited: 08/01/2013 at 16:58
08/01/2013 at 16:58


I've run three marathons now. I used energy gels in training and running the first two. For the third one, I didn't take on anything during training or the marathon itself except plenty of water. I performed better in it than the others. I ate an enormous amount of food in the 2-3 days before the race, especially in the 24 hours preceding it.

Anita Bean in The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition (my food bible) has useful tips on 'carbo-loading'. Essentially go for 7-8g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight for 3 days then 8-10g/kg for the next 3 days before the race. Eat a substantial breakfast 2-4 hours before the race.

Feelings of hunger are often caused by lack of water - this is true whether or not you're exercising - and feeling hungry after 15 miles is probably an early sign of impending dehydration rather than a lack of fuel.

08/01/2013 at 17:04

I should add that if I do any run lasting two hours. Then protein is the priority on the day. Eggs and Tuna are my choice. 

I cannot for the life of me see the point of putting my muscles through such an ordeal and then starving them of repair material.

08/01/2013 at 17:18

The 2,600 cals I mentioned earlier is the available energy stored in the liver and muscles on the start line, if you have carbo-loaded along the lines described by Alex above. So yes it is specific to your body weight and pacing etc.

I have no experience of running on protein other than listening to Prof Noakes.I think his position in this is that "some" people would benefit from protein (rather than carbs) because that is what our ancestors ate more frequently and it has worked for HIM (and RicF by the sound of it).

The ancestors did'nt wait for an apple to ripen, they ran a deer to ground and scoffed it raw - you get the drift, but it is a whole new topic!

08/01/2013 at 17:37

I once tried a diet (briefly) that involved an element of starvation for 9 days out of 10. The 10th day was an 'anything goes day'.

It was a great way to lose body fat and I ran well off it. But it's no use in the modern world. We have too many other things to think about during the day, than just food.

08/01/2013 at 17:54

Indeed it is Mike!

I think people do get overly hung-up on food and drink during races. For most people, if you have eaten well and are well hydrated up to 1:45 is easily done with no additional food or drink (unless warm, then drink can be more of a factor). It's not so long ago that there was a plethora of decent club-runners knocking out 2:30 marathons who without even thinking about any need for food or even drink becasue that's just what they were used to (that makes me sound old!)

The trouble with using the massive amount of energy available to even the skinniest runner as fat, is that the majority of people's metabolism just hasn't had enough practice to do this efficiently given our easy access to a wide diet and reliance on carbs, which is why for long runs when the initial glycogen stores are used up we all turn to gels, jelly babies etc etc.

The best way around this is to train your body to burn fat more effciently by running first thing in the morning before breakfast, or as Noakes suggests, on a low carb, high protein diet. It does take time, and can be unpleasant for many people to do this for the period your body takes to adapt - and I'm not convinced everyone can do it. Whilst a lot of Noakes makes sense, personally, I try to compromise by both making sure my glycogen stores are topped up by a reasonably healthy diet (whihc usually means high carbs the day before) then running a medium, and occasional long, run first thing to teach my body to use it's reserves more effectively and alter the balance of how glycogen and fat are metabolised.  

For my next marathon this autumn I will slowly increase the length of runs done 'hungry', as I've been convinced this works by other runners. I'm no luddite though, and will use gels on race day, from about mile 15 on as they will then act as a bit of a turbo boost! That said, its worth taking one gel to get used to opening and eating them on the run - just don't turn he wrapper into litter as so many runners seem to do!

For what its worth, even before this strategy, all my marathons were done with no more than 4 gels in the latter part of the race, plus water on the course. 

Right, I'm off to hunt for a springbok...





08/01/2013 at 18:08

OK, could people please stop telling me how I should or shouldn't fuel my runs.  You don't know me and have no idea about the state of my health and how my body works, so please stop assuming that what works and applies to you will also work for me.  I know what works for me and what doesn't, and I have asked for advice on specifically what people have used during long runs that ISN'T gels because these don't work for me.

If you could stick to the topic in hand and stop telling me not to eat food and to use gels instead or that I don't need to eat at all, then I'd be very grateful.  There was a lot of useful advice at the begining but now it just seems people are telling me what to do.  Thanks

08/01/2013 at 18:22

Two-Stroke Tart. 

We're all just posting information in general.

We're grateful for your initial posting but after that its just an open forum.

Its not about you!

Two-Stroke Tart wrote (see)

 I have asked for advice on specifically what people have used during long runs that ISN'T gels because these don't work for me.


Now that you mention it. I specifically told you what I use during long runs that ISN'T gels. 

What do you want? a gel but not a gel?

Clearly you don't know what you want but want it anyway.


Edited: 08/01/2013 at 18:35
08/01/2013 at 18:37
I don't think anyone is purposely being rude by going a bit off topic but nutrition is one of those things that has many different theories and everyone seems to have thier own. A few years ago it was all about carb loading with loads of bread and pasta, more recently it had all been gels , bars and lucozade and now there are theories about using fat as fuel.
Ask 10 people and they will probabaly give you 10 different views. What works for them may not necessarily work for the next person.
You may have unwittingly opened a can of worms.
Hope I am not seen as being rude.
08/01/2013 at 18:55

original query was "I'm wondering if anyone out there has trained for a marathon without using the various gels on the market?.......Anyone actually done it that could give me some advice?"
posters then have offered the requested advice, but the OP's latest post says
"OK, could people please stop telling me how I should or shouldn't fuel my runs. . . . . . . . . . . . .

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