Fuelling For Long Runs
Did you sweat enough this week? I have spent a lot of time lying in front of the air-conditioner, when I wasn’t making trips for frozen treats, like CoolHaus. Try the blood orange gelato. It’s amazing.
The big thing that I’ve noticed this week in my blogroll is that everyone seems to be starting NY Marathon training this week. And you know what you do during marathon training? You run long. To run long, you need fuel, for both energy, and sodium, electrolytes, etc… Welcome to my “amazing guide to running fuel” aka what sugary treats do I like to incentivize myself with during long runs?
During the summer, my usual pre-run breakfast is a Honey Stinger Waffle and a glass or two of sparkling water. Honey Stinger Waffles are Lance Armstrong-approved, and a good mix of sugars, carbs, and a little bit of fat. It helps that they taste delicious, and are light enough to start running straight away, but have enough energy in them (160 cals) to keep me going for a good hour before I need to fuel (or eat) again. They come in four flavors. I’ve only tried two: honey, which is pretty widely available, and vanilla, which is a little bit sweeter, and my personal favorite. They just came out with a chocolate and a strawberry flavor. I just picked them up this week, but haven’t had a chance to try them yet. Another tip: these are also amazing if you put them over a mug of coffee to allow the honey goo to melt, and eat them like that.
I always drink at least a glass, if not two, of sparkling water before I go out for a long run. I have also been bringing a 16oz water bottle which is half frozen with me. I’m the kind of runner who can only drink water on a run. I know other people can drink Nuun, or Gatorade, while running, but it makes my stomach do somersaults.
There are lots of different options for fuelling on the run. A lot of people have sensitive stomachs while running, so it’s good to do some trial and error to see what works for you. I find that gels are good for races, because they are incredibly quick to eat, but as their consistency is sort of gross, I limit them to races, and just enough that I am used to them for racing. When I’m not racing, I prefer a “chewier” food to eat, and I’ll take a longer break, stretch a little, drink a few decent gulps, and eat my candy.
Oh, good point. I always drink with my fuel to ease it on my stomach. Double and triple what I drink during a regular water break, which is (lets get scientific here), a few gulps.
In general, when I’m running, I’ll fuel approximately every five miles. As I’m a bonafide sugar addict, it gives me something to look forward to, and breaks up my long runs a little.
Gu Energy Gels
Gu is probably the most popular mid-run fuel. It is basically a flavored, sugary paste, with a consistency similar to gel toothpaste. It comes in about ten flavors, and some flavors are also fortified with caffeine. They come in 100 calorie servings, and also have a blend of amino acids, antioxidants, and electrolytes. The maximum number of Gus I have managed to happily consume during a race is three. After that, my stomach starts to get a little angry at the fake food injections.
I prefer the fruit flavors of Gu. My favorite by far is Mandarin Orange, and then Strawberry Banana. Jet Blackberry has extra caffeine in it, so is good for a mega boost, but I’d be scared to have two back to back. Tri Berry is also pretty good. Mint Chocolate is edible, and Just Plain tastes like vanilla. However, Vanilla is absolutely disgusting. It does not taste like frosting. Or if it does, I don’t want to eat the cakes that you guys make. Stomach-churningly nasty. There is also an Espresso Love flavor that people rave over, and a Peanut Butter flavor, neither of which I’ve tried.
Strange note – I’ll never take two of the same flavor of Gu on a run with me. Variety is the spice of life.
I’ve heard that Clif gels are better for you than Gu, because they are more natural and have less ingredients you can’t pronounce. However, I just can’t get behind the texture. I’ve only had the raspberry one, and the taste was fine, but the texture was similar warm jam – very thin and runny. I haven’t had another once since.
These come in bags of about 180 calories, so one bag will power a whole long run. They are based on the Gu Gel, but come in a more solid form, so a lot of people find them easier to eat and digest. I prefer these to gels when I’m just training. They are the perfect size for eating easily, but are pretty chewy. Flavor-wise, I think Orange and Blueberry Pomegranate are really good, and Watermelon is frankly a little weird. I haven’t tried the others yet.
Clif Shot Blocks
As with the Clif Gels, these are supposed to be better for you in terms of being more natural. I don’t know much about that. I do know that the packets of 200 calories, and each shot is 33 cals. I find them very large to chew, and theyes would be impossible to eat “on the run”. However, they come taste really good, and the tough chewing gives me a chance for a breather on a long run. I’ve had the Cran-Razz, the Mountain Berry, and the Strawberry so far.
Another weird, and probably slightly gross thing: because these foods have so much sugar in them, they are incredibly preserved. I’ve found packets which have been open for months and still tasted and worked fine. They just needed a little more water/chew to break them down. Yeah, gross.
Honey Stinger Organic Chews
These are by far the most delicious, easy to eat, apparently made for runners, candy ever. Especially the Orange Blossom flavor. While they are so, completely 100% delicious, they do not have any sodium or other electrolytes, so they are not so good for long sweaty runs. I tend to eat some of these first, and then maybe have a shot block or Gu on my second fuel. I would recommend them to people who have a hard time with Gus or Gels though as they are easy on the stomach.
That’s my running fuel breakdown for you. I’ll definitely be putting it into action this weekend when I run the Boilermaker 15k in Utica. This race has a famously deranged elevation profile, but ends in a brewery, so can’t be all bad. Most importantly, it’s Ori’s race debut. He’s already figured out his playlist and plan to dominate hills. I’m mostly concerned he gets in the beer line ahead of the rest of us.