Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom: How to Fuel During Long Runs

Hey everyone!  I’ve got a confession to make:  one reason why I’m always so scared during my long runs is because I don’t know how to fuel while running.  One thing I’ve heard many times is “Oh I tried that fuel and I didn’t like it because it made my stomach upset”.  Um, there is no way I’m going to try out a new fuel on a run longer than 1 hour that takes place in the woods far away from any bathrooms!  But I could tell on my recent long runs that I need a little extra boost to get me to the finish.  Last week I carried water with me, which was very helpful and definitely made a huge difference, but I’m thinking that for this weekend’s long run I should maybe try some fuel.  So I did a lot of research and found many different types of fuel that I want to share with you.  If you’ve ever had questions about how to fuel, here are some suggestions!

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Why we need to fuel:  Any workout requires some fuel in order to make it to the end strong.  But long runs are a special type of workout.  Being out there for over an hour takes its toll on your body, and if you don’t refuel you will eventually crash and end up finishing your run exhausted and in pain.  No one wants that!  The following articles explain the different types of fuel available and why you may choose one type of fuel over another!

  • Active.com wrote this article about fuel and I love how the specify how each type of fuel works and what you should look for in a fuel, nutrition-wise.  You don’t want to ruin your workout with a ton of unnecessary chemicals in your stomach!
  • Runner’s World has a great article here that answers a runner’s question on how to fuel during a run.  I love their step-by-step tips on how to ease into the world of fueling.  I need all the help I can get!

What to eat during a run:  There are so many options for fueling during runs, so here is a list of what I learned about the most popular types of fuel.  All info came from the companies’ websites and I am not affiliated with any of these brands.  In fact, I haven’t tried any of these products yet and have no opinions on any of them yet!  I just keep hearing these names and know they are reputable brands that many runners trust when fueling so I think they’re worth a shot!  Let me know if you have used any of these!

  • Clif Shot Blocks:  I think these will be my first to try!  I love Clif Bars and usually eat one after my long runs, so I know that most of their products are yummy and don’t give me any digestive issues.  Clif Shot Blocks apparently look and taste like gummy candy, plus they’re easy to carry and aren’t messy.
  • GU:  If I’m going to try any type of gels, I think I should start with GU!  So many runners swear by this stuff, plus they have yummy sounding flavors like salted caramel (AKA my current favorite frozen yogurt flavor!  Win!).
  • Honey Stinger:  Everyone is always talking about Honey Stinger waffles, but they also have gels and chews!  They claim that their chews don’t stick to your teeth and are softer than others, which are 2 things that seem pretty important when you’re out of breath and struggling to get through your run.  I’m excited to try these out!
  • Jelly Belly Sports Beans:  I love Jelly Belly jelly beans, but I never thought about using them as fuel!  Jelly Belly came out with these sports beans as a quick, easy to eat fuel for runners.  I can only imagine they taste awesome!
  • Nuun:  It looks like Nuun can be used before, during, or after a run!  Nuun is a tablet that goes into your water and give you extra perks like electrolytes without any sugar or carbs.  I hear they’re super yummy and a much better option than Gatorade!
  • Natural fuels:  Foods such as gummy bears, Swedish Fish, Twizzlers, and Fig Newtons can actually be used as long run fuel!  They have high carbs and sugar to keep your energy up while running.  And you know you love these foods already so they’re a super easy way to try out fuel!

ryangoslinglongrunDoes this count as long run fuel?  Ryan Gosling at the end of the trail would give me energy to finish my runs  🙂

So what’s my plan for finding the right type of fuel?  I’ve got some medium length runs planned for later tonight and tomorrow night, and I’m hoping to be able to try out some fuel on these shorter runs (near a bathroom/a water source) to see how they make my stomach feel.  Hopefully all goes well, but in order to do this I need your help!  Please let me know what types of fuel you use during your run!  I would love to see which types of fuel you’ve had success with so that I can be sure to try those out!  And also let me know how often you fuel during your runs to keep yourself from crashing.  I know that every body is different and needs different amounts of fuel, but I’d love to get an idea of where to start.  Hopefully in a month or two I’ll be able to report back here with a list of all the fuel options I’ve tried and actually be able to give you my opinion on what worked best for me so stay tuned!

What type of fuel do you use during your long runs?  How often do you use fuel on long runs?  Share your ideas with me!

40 thoughts on “Wednesday Wisdom: How to Fuel During Long Runs

  1. As you know, I love me some Honey Stinger waffles. I’ve learned the hard way that my stomach reacts very badly and basically twists into a knot if I try to put any gel or candy-like fuel (Swedish fish, Powerbar blasts, etc). I have tried Sports Beans and even though they tasted sort of weird to me, they were okay with me. I didn’t like the taste though so I personally won’t be getting more.

    1. Do you eat the waffles while running? Isn’t it tough to get them down? I really want to try them out but don’t know if it’s better for me to eat them before my run!

      1. I still absolutely stink at eating things while I run. So no I haven’t tried eating them. I haven’t had problems with feeling like I needed to fuel yet though either.

  2. I don’t normally fuel on long runs ( or any runs) for the same reasons you mentioned. I have tried Island boost and that did not make me sick, it went down well and I didn’t need water with it. My favorite thing to take with me on a run are those yogurt pouches. I also love cliff bars and honeystinger waffles but I use them after my run! Good luck finding what work for you!

    1. Oh my god that yogurt thing is such a good idea!!! I’m sure the yogurt would be warm by the time I got to it though 😦 I’ll have to look into Island Boost!

  3. Yep, I definitely recommend the Honey Stinger gels! The honey base makes them easy on my stomach. I also recommend carrying water to drink with and between gels. Add Nuun and that’s better yet. My most successful long runs and races have included frequent small sips of water with Nuun and a Honey Stinger gel + water every 4 or 5 miles. Good luck!

    And if you’re worried about stomach problems while trying new fuel, maybe tie a throw-away bandana to your wrist for the run. Could come in handy. 🙂

    1. Oooh I didn’t realize they were more natural with the honey – I will totally bump those up to the top of my list now! And I seriously need to try Nuun. That’s a good idea with the bandana but I can’t imagine having to use that in a place like Forbidden Drive – the trail is basically along a gorge and there’s nowhere to go if you needed to deal with that! I may need to find a super remote trail now 😛

  4. Clif bloks are nice (and I hate gels usually) and jelly beans always go down well. I run with a pack and for longer runs will take normal foods i.e. Banana bread, peanut butter sandwiches, naan bread. Dried fruit and mixed nuts are also awesome for keeping me going. Instead of water I’ll take orange squash (not the sugar free type though…we need the sugar!). But really it needs to be what works best for you. Have fun experimenting 🙂

  5. It would be so nice if there was a one size fits all with fuel for long runs. I’ve had my fair share of pit stops testing out new ones.

    I’ve tried a lot – real food (hard to swallow while running), gummies (get super rock hard when it’s cold), honey stinger waffles (crumble when trying to eat on the run). But GU or Honey Stinger Gels works the best for me. However, just a warning, things can change. I’ve had a fuel work for months and one day my stomach revolts. Good luck!

    1. Yeah I wish there was just one kind and I knew it wouldn’t mess me up! I don’t want my stomach to revolt on a race day! Thanks for the tip on gummies getting cold in the winter, I didn’t even think about that!

  6. I tried Gu’s, Blocks, Beans–really anything that is marketed to fueling on a long endurance event–and you know what works best for me? Little peanut butter and jelly squares in plastic baggies, and I use Nuun for hydration. Yes, it can get a little messy, but my body wants real food not super sweet overly processed sugar. That stuff just made me very nauseated and crampy.

  7. I’ve never been a gel fan, but I do like the Cliff Shot Blocks. I usually have one with some water every three miles for runs longer than 90 minutes. I had a bad experience with Gatorade a few years ago, so I usually stick to plain water when I’m running, and then some Nuun when I’m done. Good luck!

  8. I used Shot Bloks during my marathon training and, they never gave me any problems but, you have to drink some water with them or you’ll probably get stomach cramps. They also have some caffeine in them which is a nice boost when your ten miles in and wondering why you are still running. lol.

  9. I love Shot Blocks. They’re my go to and I’ve used them on my half marathon and all my triathlons last year. I’ve tried gels on training runs and they tend to upset my stomach. You also need to wash gels down as they tend to coat your mouth in sticky goo. Shot Blocks I can get down without water if I need to. Make sure when you try them you still have at least 2-3 miles left in your run so they actually have some time to kick in and hit your system so you can feels if they’re upsetting you or boosting your energy.

  10. I’ve tried GU, and while it doesn’t upset my stomach at all.. I have a hard time with the texture/certain flavors. The peanut butter was too much for me, but I don’t mind the chocolate outrage and strawberry banana. I also don’t mind the shot blocks- I think of prefer them to GU. When I’ve used them I’ve just had a few every so often along my run!

    I really love nuun! Cherry limeade and tropical punch are my favs- and they’re pretty good mixed together too!

  11. I mostly use Gu and honey stingers. I’ve used shot blocks and the beans before but there’s a couple Gu flavors (chocolate and salted caramel) and the honey stingers I like better so that’s what I stick with. I also carry Nuun in my fuelbelt water bottles.

  12. I use gummy bears on my training runs longer than 90 minutes, but I used Gu on my longest training runs (20 miles) and during my marathon and loved it.
    I found that once I’d been running for a couple hours it was easier to slurp down a Gu then to try to chew anything.
    I make sure to get 30 or so grams of carbs every 45 minutes 🙂
    Good luck experimenting with fueling!

      1. Per the nutrition guidelines on the back of the package, it was 31 grams of carbs per 15 bears, so about every 5 to 5.5 miles I’d munch on 15 bears (obviously I’d only chew 3-4 at a time). So it takes up quite a bit of room if you’re planning a really long run, but they work great and are super cheap!

  13. This is a good post b/c I know I’m also very naive about fueling for long runs (it scares me!) I’m gonna check out the articles you linked to for sure. Right now I’ve got Clif shotbloks and shot gels that I’ve gotten from various running samples so I’ll start with those. Thanks!

    1. It sounds like we’re in the same place right now! Good luck trying out fuels, it looks like a lot of people recommend Clif Shot Blocks so we’re off to a good start!

  14. I like eating a little something before a long run so I usually go with a banana or toast and peanut butter. During the run I’ve used candy (mmmm, candy) or GU gel (but only specific flavors). I’d love to find something a bit more natural to carry along with me.

  15. There’s definitely no one right or wrong concerning nutrition on long runs – it’s a case of finding out what works for you! Personally, I prefer real foods, sweets mostly: chocolate and wine-gums work well for me. When building up for races, I might also use certain energy drinks. In terms of trying it, I usually have a four stage strategy for new foods: firstly, I just eat it without running at all and make sure I like and tolerate it, but also that it’s easy to eat (which is important on the run!). Then I use it just before a short run, usually one of the two easy runs I do each week. If that worked, I next use it towards the end of a long run – it’s a real test of whether it’ll work in the exact same situation, without risking the run if it doesn’t work out for me. If all those tests have been passed, I’ll use the food on my next long run.

      1. Chocolate works really well in winter, yes. I like it because it’s full of sugar and caffeine, and is easy to “eat” on runs. It really does work a treat for me! 😉 And you can use anything that gives you energy. I honestly can’t recommend enough that you just try stuff and see what works for you! I know people who run all their marathons fuelled by jellybeans.

  16. I’ve been running for 7+ years now, and I still don’t have this down! I’ve tried a lot of different things – gels, shot blocks, sports beans, sugar cubes, bars, gatorade. At this point, I know that I don’t like fueling with things I need to chew…for some reason, it seems to require WAY to much effort while running. I’ve tried a lot of different gels, and my personal favorites are clif and gu. I prefer the chocolate flavors (current favorite is chocolate cherry clif shot gel) that have a little caffeine. And I always take them with water and slowly, over the course of a half mile or more. I hope you find your fuel! Also, for long long runs, I usually have a banana and (white bread) toast w/ jam. Anything else (including peanut butter) makes my stomach cramp up. Good luck in your search!

    1. Thanks so much! It seems like people either love gels or hate them. I’ll definitely give them a chance (and I’ll totally start with salted caramel!). And I think in order to do chews I’ll have to stop and walk, which is fine with me since it’s so new! I don’t need to choke out there on a jelly bean 🙂

  17. I had a hard time figuring out how to fuel/before after races or really hard runs so when I started training for my half my trainer suggested I start with the jelly beans instead of gu. I’ve never had a problem with them so that’s what I stick with!

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