Fueling for the long run

When I first started running long distances, I was obsessed with asking people how they fueled for long runs. In the beginning of my running journey, I didn't realize there were people that ran more than a few miles at a time, let alone 26.2 and longer. My eyes were opened to the wide world of nutrition and hydration that make these acts of madness possible.

My running experience comes full circle now that people have started to ask me the very questions I used to ask. I am here to tell you that while for some people, finding what works is a quick easy process, it can also be very difficult and frustrating at times!

Of course, me being me, I belong to camp #2.  In the years since I started long distance running, I have discovered a few things that work flawlessly and way too many that just don't. I am here to share my journey to the perfect solution for me and if you dare to journey on with me, please understand that there will be TMI moments. My goal is to be honest in an effort to maybe help someone who has had similar issues. You have been warned.



The first thing I ever tried was Clif Shot Bloks

Pros: Easily portable, fueled pretty well, low GI issues.
Cons: Who wants to chew while they run? (hint: not me) Also, sometimes they get too hard when running the cold or too melty (very scientific) in the summer. 

Next up was GU energy Gel which I used a few times during half marathon training and at my very first half. 


Pros: Some of these taste SUPER awesome and delicious.
Cons: They all land me in the bathroom for the rest of the day. I am not kidding or exaggerating. Believe me, I wish I was. After I finished that half marathon, I couldn't stop running to the bathroom and I was NOT a fan. Not sure if it was the specific one I had, but this is not an experiment I wish to enter into. I had similar issues while training, but thought that was just from running so far. WRONG!

From there, I tried searching for a more "real food" approach which pointed me to the the next two items. First up, is Pocket Fuel which coincidentally looks like is not around anymore, but I will share it anyway. 



Pros: HELLO, NUT BUTTER!!! 
Cons: While I loved everything about these delicious treats, trying to run after I sucked one down was not on my top 10 favorite things. My mouth would be dry and sometimes I just didn't want that flavor while running. I did try quite a few of their flavors thanks to the amazing samples they sent me, but it just wasn't a long term solution for me.


Around the same time, I got the opportunity to try ENERGYbits.  


Pros: All natural, algae-based supplement that can be used before and during runs to boost energy.
Cons: I kept playing with when I took them prior to a workout, but often ended up feeling like I needed to run to the bathroom as soon as I got done running or even worse, during a run. It was also a little weird to take the recommended amount which was 30 little green tabs. Taking these in the middle of a long run was not working for me after a while. Also, they were a little too pricey for my life. I became an ambassador with them and got a slight discount, but it wasn't really enough for me. 

Fear not!! I found another pretty sweet more natural option through a friend's recommendation called Huma Gel.

Pros: These are EVERYTHING. I chose the picture of the lemonade because it is probably my favorite. They also came out with a + version that added electrolytes and I love the strawberry lemonade. They are so refreshing during hot runs and I didn't really ever have an issues with them. 
Cons: I can't really remember any. 

So these were the perfect end to the fueling love story, right? Kind of. 

My favorite hydration product, Nuun, changed it's formula sometime last year to use Stevia instead of straight up sugar. I panicked!! Stevia and my body do not get along AT ALL guys. If you have ever run with me, I am sure I have told you the awful stories. It is SO bad that after just a sip or two, my stomach starts to FLIP. 


I even contacted the company and was so bummed when they told me they didn't plan on keeping any of the regular sugar options. I knew I needed to find an option to keep hydrated during my runs and I got a similar recommendation from many respectable sources.

Tailwind was recommended to me over and over again. There were some other options out there, but they all had Stevia. No thanks. 

I have been using this since January some time and never looked back. It is a white powder that you mix with water and let it work it's magic. I am still playing a little with the strength for my needs, but I have used it for runs up to 15 miles and it has been great. No stomach issues and it literally has everything you need in it. When I use Tailwind, I really don't need anything else. I know that as I up my mileage for this training cycle, I will add other food options in there. When you get into the ultra distances, your body needs all different kinds of things that you wouldn't think to eat while running a road marathon but that's a whole different discussion. 

Take aways:
1. Fueling is personal 
2. Don't give up if one product doesn't work for you. Do a little research and find something else that might work better. 
3. Ask your friends or others who are "seasoned" runners for suggestions if you don't know where to start.
4. Real food works for some people (dried fruit, pretzels, Swedish fish, etc) but was never something I personally tried. I did enjoy some AWESOME things when I ran Blues Cruise 50k last fall. Did someone say potatoes?!?! 
5. Trust yourself and treat your body with love. If something doesn't work, don't beat yourself up. this goes for regular life eating too. If you fuel with crap that doesn't work for your body and you find yourself getting frustrated or hitting the wall.. examine what you're doing and make a plan to do something different and better the next time. 

Keep in mind that I am not a professional and that this is obviously not an exhaustive list of the never-ending fueling options that are out there. This is just my little road map to fueling and GI happiness and I hope it helps someone!

Feel free to comment with additional questions or if you have any other awesome suggestions!




Comments

  1. I just started experimenting with Tailwind and Huma gels during this training cycle and I really like them! I tried GU in the past and it made my tummy hurt. I was previously using Honey Stinger products last year and they were okay, but I did notice some stomach upset with the gels at the end of last year.

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  2. I have never tried any of this!! The thought of Gu used to make me anxious, so I never tried it. When we trained for the marathon, I used to loop back to the car for hot chocolate and bites of brownies or bagels.

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