Refueling During Long Runs

For those of you who aren’t aware, I am running the Cambridge half marathon in just over a weeks time. I have run these races before so I know what to expect but this time I am on a mission. I had a lesson taught to me a while back (see here) and I have been training fairly hard since Christmas. I am feeling fairly confident although there is just one more area I need to explore: nutrition.

Cambridge Half Marathon 2013

When I am running a fair distance and start to get tired my head goes all sort of, well, ‘fuzzy’ or numb. I assume that it happens because my body is redirecting its energy to my muscles? Whatever the reason, I hate that feeling. Also, as a lot about running is in your mind, I wish to sort this out. I need to be mentally strong otherwise the urge to give up becomes too strong. 😦

One final push to make me want to get on top of this is the events of my last half marathon where I did really well only to fade badly on the last mile.

In the past I have ‘dabbled’ with those chalky tablets:

These have helped with my head but I have not really taken it very seriously and so probably have not got the best from them.

This week I have done a bit of research and found out some interesting things:

  1. The body can only cope with some energy in the form of sugar. Too much gives you nausea. (One of my fears.)
  2. When running the idea is to replenish some of the energy that has been lost, not all. Research suggest that this should be 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour for runs over 60 minutes.
  3. It is recommended that you should take a large swig or two of water or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. (I have looked at the importance of water even in cold weather here.)
  4. A pre-workout snack can give you a mental boost.(Trouble is I know that you should eat before already, maybe I need to look at what I should be eating?)
  5. The carbohydrates you eat in the build up to a race will be stored as glycogen. This gives your muscles energy. The carbohydrates you eat an hour before your race goes through your bloodstream, giving you proper blood sugar for mental energy.
  6. Good practice seems to be  to eat a snack an hour or two before or a meal three to four hours before your run. The snack should contain plenty of carbohydrate for energy. The meal, in addition to carbohydrates should also include some protein  as protein is essential for muscle repair. Clark suggests either eating a 100-200 calorie snack  20 to 60 minutes before exercise or waking up early to eat a larger meal, even if that means going back to sleep for a few hours. This way your blood sugar levels will be normal because you will have re-fueled your liver glycogen, which depletes overnight.

All the above makes perfect sense to me but this last bit of advice is practically the most useful:

A general rule of thumb is to take in about 100 calories after an hour of running, and then another 100 calories every 40-45 minutes after that.

I can do that 🙂

Last week when I went on a 12 mile run I ate 2 jelly babies after every mile (from about 4). This worked really well for me, keeping my head with me. The biggest problem with this is carrying them. They are quite big and bulky. One of my friends suggested taking Kendal Mint Cake as it is probably almost pure sugar – a good idea except for point number 1 maybe?

This week I bought myself some ‘proper’ running gels. I have always been put off buying these in case they upset me and also because I mistakenly believed that I did not need to take on fuel when training. (WHY???)

Having overcome all that nonsense I took one of these at 7 miles. It gave me an instant hit (once I got over the sticky, sickliness of it that is) and boosted my mood no end. I then took another one around 10 miles which probably helped me to keep going through the last 3 miles, especially when I thought that I was not going to make the time that I had wanted to. Far too easy to stop and give in I am afraid, but I didn’t. I still felt very tired but I do think they made a difference. The gels I have contain 80 cals per pack so I feel justified in having one after 30 minutes rather than waiting the extra 10.

To summarise this I shall be running with a bottle of water (an extra-large one bought especially this week) as well as the 2 remaining gels I have. Maybe with these I shall finally run the race of my dreams? (I will not be holding my breath on that one!)

Do you use anything on a longer run? What works for you?


As always, click on the pictures to be taken to the image source.

14 thoughts on “Refueling During Long Runs

  1. emmarossruns

    Up until my training this year I’d never bothered with gels etc, relied on picking up some lucozade/water from a shop on the way round on my long runs. I tried the same gel as in your pic once, but it was so sweet I couldn’t stomach it.
    This year my lovely boyfriend for Valentines bought me some Clif Bloks (what a romantic!) I tried them for the first time last weekend. They’re like little cubes with a consistency somewhere between jelly and wine gums! You chew them, have a mouthful of waterand you’re done. I really liked them, not too sweet, small enough that they’re gone in a few chews and seemed to keep me going – I didn’t feel a massive energy hit, but I ran 10miles with water and those and it felt good……

  2. healthyfrenchie

    I get that same feeling after a few km and I hate it! When I did my 10k “over the mountain” they gave us some cherry organic chewy things. They were so good and really helped me push through
    Good luck with the half marathon!

  3. fairweatherrunner

    I started taking gels last summer for my runs over 12 miles when marathon training. The high 5 ones and SIS are my favourite. Durring my marathon I took one every 4 miles, worth taking before you get tired and feel bad.

  4. Michaela

    Great post, I just can’t face gels and it’s too close now to start experimenting but you’ve certainly made me consider trying them in the future. I’ll be sticking to my nakd bars for now. I’m not taking my own drinks as there will be water and energy drinks every 3 miles. The drinks packs are amazing too, we tried them out at a training session a few weeks ago, you can drink and keep going because the water only comes out when you squeeze them.

    See you soon!

  5. Clare Lewis

    Before a race I have been having porridge with water, yuk but milk upsets my stomach whilst running and some toast about two hours before a race and less if I’m training long runs.

    For the marathon I’ve been testing the gels too the bloke in the runners shop said you take them about every 20-30 mins though he takes them less often, personally I’ve not found them to make much difference but I may not have been taking them at the right times. I find the drinks powerade really good for keeping me going. Good luck with the half marathon 🙂

  6. christinamolin

    I have done powerbars about 45 min before start and ihave had gels for half marathon runs. I do every other water station water and every other gatorade or whatev sportsdrink they use. Carbing up for about a week before. And 2 liters water per day a week before to.


I love to hear your thoughts and views.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s