Reader to Reader: Fuel On The Run

What's the best way to top up your energy reserves during a long run? Here's what you thought


Posted: 20 August 2007
by Catherine Lee

Increasing your mileage in preparation of a marathon not only brings with it heavier training demands - you’ll need to pay much more attention to your refuelling strategies too. Sugar-coated sweets have been the snack of choice for this reader so far, but what should she be eating to tackle the big one?

"Hello all! Life has suddenly got a bit more serious for me as I've changed my race distances from half-marathon to marathon. With half-marathons I've managed on Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles, water and Lucozade pouches if they were included as part of the water stations. However, I've decided to up my game and enter a marathon. The thing is, I just don't understand nutrition. What stuff should I be eating on the run? Talk to me like a seven-year-old, this is all new territory for me. Thank you! " Mouse.

Your best answers

  • Stock up on carbs beforehand
    Before an endurance run I always build my glycogen stores by packing in the carbs for two days before - brown pasta, brown rice, potatoes, whole cereals, porridge etc. On the morning of the race I add a large slice of Malt Loaf with a load of chocolate spread to my breakfast plate, then take Kendal Mint Cake with me on the run. The problem with too much sugar before a run is that you may then experience a sudden drop in blood sugar (caused by an insulin rush) which will leave you knackered and affect your performance. – Nimble Turnkey
  • For an immediate boost, reach for something sugary
    I take a lump of fondant icing with me on long runs - I prefer this to more popular sweets like Jelly Babies as it is a bit softer. I carry it in my shorts pocket in a little plastic freezer bag, and just break a little lump off when needed. I guess it's just pure sugar really. – Heth
  • There are a variety of special energy products on the market
    I manage about 300-500ml sports drink in a marathon and maybe a few sweets. Some energy gels have to be taken with water, others can be tolerated without. In theory you also need to eat within 20 minutes of a long run - if you can’t, then a recovery drink (basically a carbs-protein mix) may be helpful. – Eva Midsole
  • Or everyday carbohydrate-rich snacks can work just as well
    Jam sandwiches can be good during a run, so can malt loaf and Jaffa Cakes. I used to take mini Mars bars out on long runs with me to have while I was running. – Kazzaaaah!
  • It all boils down to personal taste
    Everyone is different in what works for them and you may even find that what works in training somehow doesn't work for the marathon. I developed a pathological hatred of Jelly Babies during the FLM, despite them having been my life saviour during my training runs. I can't stomach Lucozade Sport of any flavour, nor any of the normal sports drinks, but I use Taut Endurance whenever it’s hot and I'm covering more than 10 miles. It’s got loads more salt (and less sugar) than the other drinks. Chocolate milk is a good recovery drink and possibly a bag of crisps or something salty if it was hot, followed by a meal within an hour. All trial and error though, so start experimenting now! – Treacle Tart
  • The sooner you start taking on fuel the better
    About 60-90 minutes before a long training run I down a milky filter coffee and a couple of bananas. If I've fuelled well the day before, I find a bottle of vanilla For Goodness Shakes does me. This provides carbs in the form of lactose, fructose and sucrose, some protein and nearly zilch fat for quick absorption. Of course, if you're not good on dairy, forget it. If it's a hot day, I also take two tetrapaks of Vita Coco (coconut water containing natural potassium and sodium). All this stuff is very natural so suits me fine. It will get me through a run of 20-24 miles, about 30-60 seconds off my minute-mile race pace. However, on marathon day, I gloop down around seven energy gels as my heart rate is faster and I'm doing the extra distance. I love the SIS gels as they're isotonic, so you don't have to worry about getting the right proportion of water with them. I take my first one just before the starting gun, then one every 20 minutes or so. I think you need to give your body time to absorb them so you don't hit the wall. I've done three marathons on this strategy and have been chuffed with my times and never hit the wall. The same principles apply on a training run, I think. Start as you're going out the door then as soon as it's comfortable, and you feel your stomach emptying, get some more down you. – Little Lizard
  • Long-distance runs can deplete your sodium levels too
    • I tend to fade horribly towards the end of marathons and have suffered with cramp on the last two (due to a lack of salt). It might be worth having something savoury to hand for later in the race - I'm always sick of sugary things after 20-odd miles. – SoVeryTired
  • Don’t try anything new on race day
    Find out which energy drink is being offered at the marathon and practise with that drink so you know whether to take it on the day. I'm a Jelly Babies fan as gels are just a bit too sickly sweet for me. You do feel a bit silly in races, because clutching a little bag of Jelly Babies doesn't look as professional as carrying some hi-tech gels, but they are a lot cheaper. Try eating two or three Jelly Babies every 20-30 minutes, washed down with water. If you don't take on water at the same time as a gel or sweets you are likely to get vile stomach cramps. – Jools B
  • Make time to rehydrate and refuel properly
    Some people like dried apricots but I find that they turn to a gooey mess in my mouth and then I end up drinking so much water I get cramps. I also like flat Diet Coke afterwards – it doesn’t have any nutritional value but it really picks me up after a long run. I guess it’s OK as long as you also have something nourishing! It can a bit tricky refuelling after a race because it’s hectic getting your bag back, getting your breath back, and trying to keep upright... – Shimmy shimmy
  • Go for something easy-on-the-stomach
    After a long run some fruit (like raspberries, blackberries, nectarines) in yoghurt with honey or golden syrup is a nice gentle way to recover. It doesn't feel too heavy and means you can get your recovery fuel in quicker than usual. – Pingu1903
  • Relax with a glass of the white stuff
    Research suggests that milk is your best bet as a post-run drink for all sorts of reasons, not least that it hydrates more effectively than water (the body keeps hold of it for longer) and it also contains protein, some carbs and electrolytes... One thing I learnt on a long run - Jelly Babies and sweat don't mix. Or rather, they do, to make sweet gunge. You should've seen the waterproof Jelly Baby carrier I fashioned from a running belt, a trimmed sandwich bag and four paper clips for the FLM this year. Work of art, it was! – PhilPub

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Hello all!

Life has suddenly got a bit more serious for me as I've changed my race distances from half mara to mara. With half maras I've just blagged it round on Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles, water and lucozade pouches if they were included as part of the water stations. However, I've decided to up my game and enter a marathon.

The thing is, I don't understand nutrition. Therefore, what stuff should I be eating on the run? Obviously it's these gel things that everyone talks about so please can you tell me a bit about them? What brands are best. How often do you have one. What are the nice flavours? What are the gross flavours? Also, what's all this powder stuff? SIS or something? How do you use that?

Talk to me like a 7 year old, this is all new territory for me.

Thank you!
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:00


nsc
Mouse - I'm no expert, in fact am a bit of an non-understanding numpty about all of this too, and am also just stepping up the milage for a marathon too (think we're doing the same one)

I've just starting experimenting with the sis go gels, whichever flavour you go for they're exceedingly sweet and the texture is, shall we say, interesting! but I have no idea how many, how often, is water ok or should I be drinking other stuff???

awaits answers from those who know...
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:07

Experiment and see what you like - for me water and a couple of Hi5 energy bars worked well enough - all those gels do is make me feel sick.

Powders are fine to make up a sports drink for training but maybe not possible to use in a race. If you are doing a marathon that provides sports drink then practice using that drink.

It is possible to overdo the nutrition and end up with stomach cramps.
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:12

I cannot even get a gel past my lips

i manage about 300-500 mls sports drink in a marathon and maybe a few sweets

Too much sweet stuff and i get stomach cramps and trotts

you will really need to experiment to see what suits
Some gels you HAVE to take with water, some can be tolerated without
everyone is different
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:15


nsc
so suck it and see or gulp it or slurp it!

thanks guys, I can't tolerate stuff like lucozade sport without it being diluted, so think I will stick to water and experiment with the gels as my long runs get longer....
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:24

ha ha nsc

ha ha ha

you have a way with words
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:25

I have a discount voucher thing Wiggle sent me and I'm ordering some other stuff. Do you think it's worth ordering something like this to get a 'taster'? The voucher would bring the price down from a tenner to a fiver.
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:46


nsc
think that's a good idea for a fiver Mouse, let me know how you go on with it



Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:49

maybe mouse, but some of that stuff is recovery drink

a fiver sounds good though
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:49

okie dokie

What's recovery drink?


Posted: 11/08/2007 at 19:55

well, stuff to help your muscles repair

basically protein/carb mix

slimfast would work

so would a tuna sarnie

In theory you need to eat within 20 mins of a long run-if you cant, then a drink may be helfpul

i dont do either, but then im a shit runner
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 20:05

Can't offer any different advice Mouse apart from see what suits you best. I confess that I'm a jelly baby, lucozade and water person and extremely slow so, err, you may wish to listen to others!

Good luck on finding what works for you.
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 21:25

From what I recall of the article that was in RW around the time of FLM, SIS have the least carbs in them so you need to take them more often than the other gels but you don't need to take them with water. I tried Hi-5 and SIS. Seemed to get on best with SIS altho' I did discover that taking five on a run meant a somewhat unexpected pit stop on the way home and a rather worrisome last half mile back to the nearest loos!

I sometimes use the recovery drink - SIS vanilla one is quite pleasant. But I've found that a cereal bar and some chocomilk works just as well and is a lot cheaper.

SIS also do a drink that you can mix up and have before you go out for your run.
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 21:39

Be interesting to know what people did for energy before gels etc were invented. I mean amateur runners were generally a bit faster in the 80s and early 90s - did sports drinks even exist then ?
Posted: 11/08/2007 at 23:36

So, to summarise, there are, in fact, before, during and after type drinks/products. If nothing else I need to make sure I have the right product!

I read on a tri thread that one of the IM peeps had marmite sandwiches. That sounds like a good nutrition strategy to me - apart from the marmite bit.
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 09:20

I read a book about Inca warriors a few years back. They would run up to 30 miles a day patrolling the boundaries of their known world. They would eat the leaves of the marijuana plant to sustain them, not that I am suggesting you do that.....
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 09:38

Jam sandwiches would work Mouse, so would malt loaf, jaffa cakes. I used to take mini Mars bars out on long runs with me to have while I was running.
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 11:41

I use gels on long runs because I have been known to flake out on run ..not nice I use SIS as there are isotonic and just some water .

Post run I am using a protien recovery drink again as I am not recovering as well as I should from my sessions.I had used them 2-3 years ago and was then able to run 80 mile weeks so using them.
I am running to work and after work at moment so using an energy bar as breakfast as cant have my usual porridge Power bars and working well.

Each to there own so many products out there to try

I like SIS gels
But Hi five energy or recovery drinks
Power bar enegry bars
As I work for a running shop I have tried lots and know what suits or works best for me.
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 11:49

Mini Mars bars - now you're talking!!

Thanks for that Poppy - I'll have to pop into my local running shop and just get 1 of a few things and see what I like.
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 12:04

Wish I could remember the name of the website that I got my 'intro' pack from or even which forumite recommended it. It was a zip-lock bag that had one or two gels from the diff manufacturers.
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 12:38

I'm a jelly babies fan. Gels are just a bit too sickly sweet for me (but, bizzarely, sweets are not too sweet. One of life's little mysteries). You do feel a bit silly in races, because clutching a little doggy bag of jelly babies doesn't look as professional as carrying some hi-tech gels, but it's a hell of a lot cheaper.

On a more practical front, find out which energy drink is being offered at the marathon and practise with that drink so you know whether to take it on the day (I'm guessing it'll be good old lucozade sport at FLM for you, Mouse). The only time I drank lucozade where offered and used lucozade gels (Cardiff last year) I felt sick afterwards and couldn't stomach even straight lucozade for months. Which reminds me, must source some Gatorade to practise for Amsterdam!
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 12:48

Should add: 2/3 jelly babies every 20/30 minutes, washed down with water. If you don't take on water at the same time as a gel or sweets you are likely to get vile stomach cramps.
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 12:49

I've got Dublin before FLM Jools, I thought I needed a practice run!

So, the consensus then is that I don't necessarily need fancy anything as long as I am taking something on board?

Super doops.

Thanks again.


Posted: 12/08/2007 at 12:53

I tend to take 3 or 4 SIS gels for after halfway. And energy drink, either as provided or I'll carry a 500ml bottle.

Of course, you should ignore my advice as I tend to fade horribly towards the end of marathons and have suffered with cramp on the last two. Must take more salt.

(Might be worth having something more savoury to hand for later in the race - I'm always sick of sugary things after 20-odd miles.)
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 13:05

SVT and I differ in that I take on carbs from early on in the race - if nothing else it breaks the race up psychologically!

Enjoy Dublin!
Posted: 12/08/2007 at 15:38

I reckon everyone is different in what works for them - and you may even find that what works in training somehow doesn't work for the mara! I developed a pathological hatred of jelly babies during FLM, after them being life savours for my training runs!
And people who eat bananas before running need their heads read imho!! (in one end and out the other - sorry!)

I can't stomach Lucozade sport of any flavour, nor any of the normal sports drinks. But I use Taut endurance whenever its hot and I'm doing 10 miles+. Its got loads more salt in, and less sugar than normal drinks, and isn't a weird fluorescent colour. And I'm sure thats the only reason I survived FLM.

I also can't do the 'strong' gels, but can do SIS gels - but only 1 per hour - anymore is too much for me.
Jelly babies in between (except for during FLM!) - in fact except for super long runs thats all I use normally.
And mars bars for cold weather races - although they make me want to hurl when its hot!

And yazoo chocolate milk for recovery drink and possibly a bag of crips or something salty if it was really hot- followed by a meal within no more than an hour.

All trial and error though - start experimenting now!
Posted: 13/08/2007 at 13:16

I have been reading this thread with interest as I am doing my first mara in a couple of weeks. Can I just put a word in for the sports drink sold in Aldi (I know there are not too many stores but fortunately I have one near me.) It is far less sweet and sickly than the Lucozade equivalent. It comes in two flavours, berry and citrus, and the berry is very nice. I tend to just drink that and it has stood me in good stead so far. I normally get through 500ml on a half mara.
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 13:57

Mousicles
i believe the drink on offer in Dublin is gatorade
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 13:59

In the past i have used SIS gels, but we had a short supply this week and my hubby took the last 4! I was doing an 18 mile steady run in prep for Berlin, so found a couple of High 5 gels and used these, although you have to take with water, it's only a couple of mouthfuls! i found them to be a much more palitable texture than SIS and i had no detrimental effects on my stomach. I also had a really good run! So i'm leaving the SIS for the hubby and have just ordered a box of High 5!
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 14:33

Kazzaah, I think I recommended these trial packs before:

http://www.fuelsport.co.uk/mainCategoryPage.asp?goa=9&brand=Trial%20Packs

Nice to try a few different things...
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:06

I'm a jelly babies fan. One thing I learnt on a long run though - jelly babies and sweat don't mix. Or rather, they do, to make sweet gunge.

You should've seen the waterproof jelly baby carrier I fashioned from a running belt, a trimmed sandwich bag and four paper clips for FLM this year. Work of art, it was!
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:07

Thanks again. Especially to Hipps. I like Gatorade. I'm fed up of Lucozade!


Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:25

there was black gatorade last year
i couldnt bring myself to drink it
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:26

I am a jelly baby fan as well. Some people like apricots but I find that they turn to a gooey mess in my mouth then I am drinking water to get rid of it which gives me cramps. Jelly babies go down very well with just a mouthful of water and don't leave my mouth gooey. I have a little bag on my running belt as well with a sandwich bag liner.

It's a personal taste thing. Trial and error. Good luck with Dublin and see you next year at the FLM.
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:29

Ew, black gatorade, bad idea methinks. Are they trying to make it look like Cola?
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:29

I think so

it really put me off

then blue gatorade is wrong as well!
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:30

I like proper fat coke as a recovery drink.

That's kinda bad isn't it?
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:32

but somehow it doesn't seem that wrong
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:32

well mouse-yeah, its not good cos you need protein as well
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:33

I like flat diet coke, no nutritional value but it really picks me up after a long run.
Posted: 14/08/2007 at 15:33

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