Now that my long runs are creeping up again, and I’m coaching many women training for marathons, fueling is coming up a lot.
What type? How much? How often?
A lot has been written about fueling before, during and after a run. I’m going to assume you know the basics.
The mistake I see the most often is runners over-fueling the run.
Taking in too many gels can have a negative effect- they teach your body to be dependent on the sugar and this can cause you to feel the “crash” without the sugar “pick-me-up.”
Once you have a little distance under your belt, I’m a big fan of limiting the fuel on a long run. A little fuel is fine- as it can help you perform better and you definitely want to practice taking in some fuel for race day to teach your stomach how to digest it and ensure that your body won’t reject it.
What kind of fuel? Whatever you prefer… gels if you you don’t mind the texture, chews if you prefer chewing something, or dried fruit if you prefer real food.
With gels, look for lower sugar options. For example, Clifbar gels have about 13 grams as opposed to Gu that has 28 grams.
How much? You don’t need as much as you might think! Half a pack of HoneyStinger chews is enough to give you a little boost, or a small handful or raisins, or half a gel.
If I decide to use gels in a race, I’ll use them in one or two long runs but sip them over several miles so I don’t get the shot of sugar all at once.
How often? You can begin fueling 30-45 minutes into a long run and continue to fuel about every 40 minutes or so. If you feel your body crashing before that, you are too dependent on sugar as fuel.
How do you know if you are too dependent on sugar as fuel?
Here are some additional articles I wrote on this topic:
If you are slightly underfueled, your body learns to adapt and draws more from fat stores than from sugar/carb stores. Fasted runs will also teach your body to be less dependent on your glyogen stores.
Underfueled or fasted runs makes the run a bit harder… you may not feel as strong as you’d like to, but on race day or runs with the fuel, you’ll notice the difference and be stronger for it.
What’s your go to fuel on the long run?
At what distance do you start taking fuel with you?