Fueling question?

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Ed 1 13 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #2368

    Run
    Member

    How do you fuel during your marathons? What do you use? How often? How much do you drink? Of What? Just want to get an idea of how others fuel, as I am gearing up for my first marathon.

    Tim

  • #18165

    Ed 1
    Member

    In my first and so far only marathon I made the mistake of hitting the aid stations (at every one of them). That was unneccessary. I do drink plenty of Gatorade for long runs. In my marathon I ate candy corn – started about 15 minutes before reaching mile 20. I would not suggest that – I am not doing that again. I am going to try Glucose tablets (for diabetics) each tablet is straight glucose (the sugar that your body uses) at 5 carbs each on some of my long runs. They increase blood sugar levels with-in 15 minutes.

    So, I am going to drink lots and lots of Gatorade prior to the run and then not drink until about 12 miles of the marathon. At about mile 18 I will eat four of those Glucose tablets every two miles.

    I am going to test this to a point on some 20+ mile runs and definitely test it on the Green Bay marathon. If your marathon is longer than 8 weeks away – as me after May 22nd.

  • #18166

    randys
    Participant

    I’ve run 7 marthons without eating anything. I drink the water and whatever sports drink is available on the course.

    In general I grab 1 cup of water at every aid station. I probably miss 1 or 2 because of crowds. Starting around half way I take a cup of sports drink (and a cup of water) from any station that offers both.

    In races that don’t supply a sports drink I run without it. I don’t notice a difference in how I feel or race with or without a sports drink.

    The key is to train the way you will race. If you train with Gels or Gu’s then race with them too.

    In my case I never eat anything in training; nor do I train with sports drinks (when racing I probably drink 6-8 small cups and I already know I tolerate it).

    I think the whole topic of eating and drinking when racing is way over-rated. Most runners who hit the wall are doing so because of a lack of training (or from going out too fast for there fitness) not a lack of fuel.

    The best advice is to do whatever works for you in training.

    Randy

  • #18167

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I think Randy brought up two very important issues. First, it’s important to practice whatever you are going to do in training. Second, people place too much importance on fringe things like fueling during the race while overlooking the big thing. Not to discount the benefit of getting the fueling right or to suggest this is what’s happening here but they are good points to keep in mind.

    As for an addition, I have never made it a secret that I believe the best way to figure out what works is to watch what the elites do. Here’s a summary. First off, I have never seen a guy running sub-2:12 or a woman running sub-2:30 eat anything. Second, it seems rare that they skip an aid station. They at least grab a cup and down it, especially early in the race. Maybe they skip one or two aid stations in the first couple of miles since they are presumably topped off when starting and maybe they skip one or two late in the race since they are near finishing. Otherwise, they seem to take as much fluids as reasonably possible.

  • #18168

    Zeke
    Member
    Ryan wrote:
    As for an addition, I have never made it a secret that I believe the best way to figure out what works is to watch what the elites do.

    I’m sure it helps that the elites have their own tables with whatever drink they want – rather than only being able to drink whatever the race officials serve up. Grandma’s still serves up Ultima, which Doc (former hillrunner poster) referred to as water with a Flintstone vitamin disolved in it.

    Tim, I think the first thing to do is see what the race is offering at aid stations. Some races also have gels at 1 aid station too, so look for that in the race info. Then practice using these fuels during your training and see if they work for you. If they do, then you’re good to go. If not, keep experimenting with things you can carry during the race.

    For example, don’t start practicing with Gatorade if you won’t have access to it during the marathon. But if Gatorade works and you can get someone to hand you a bottle or two during the race, then that’s a possibility. Also, experiment with gels if you plan on using them. There can be a big difference between the brands and even between the flavors within the same brands.

    Personally, I’ll take Gatorade, Powerade or XLR8 if that’s available – I won’t take Ultima. I’d probably alternate aid stations – water once, then sports drink. I usually take 2-3 gels too. I prefer Carboom for the flavors, but have used Gu too. Hammergel is thinner and I plan on trying that this time around.

    The most important things are to practice what you plan on doing and then, after the race, write down what you did and how it worked. That way you’ll remember for your next marathon and can make adjustments, if necessary.

  • #18169

    Run, check out this link. Some good advise on fueling before and during the race.

    http://www.teamoregon.com/publications/marathon/contents.html

    At NJ they use gatoraid. Was also offered beer on more than one occasion. Stick with the gatoraid.

  • #18170

    SwampTiger
    Member

    I have run the Chicago Marathon twice. Both times I got a drink at every aid station (every 1-1.5 miles) except maybe the first, due to crowds, and the last. I alternated water and gatorade at each aid station. I also took four gels each race, beginning at about mile 8.

    My personal thoughts, based on my own limited experience:

    -I dont’ think you can start drinking too early. I don’t drink the whole cup every time and it doesn’t really slow me down.

    -People may stress out and focus too much on hydration and nutrition, but it is an important component of a successful marathon and should not be overlooked.

    -I don’t think I need four gels. With the gatorade, I may not need any, but it has worked for me in the past and I’ll probably still take a couple. I think for the first marathon, it was as much a psychological boost as anything.

    -While I believe there is value in looking at what the elites do, it is also true that 4-5 hour marathoners have different needs than elites. I’m not a 4-5 hour marathoner, but I’m not an elite either. I probably require something in between and a little extra energy boost may be appropriate.

    There’s my two cents….

    -Rob

  • #18171

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    Zeke wrote:
    I’m sure it helps that the elites have their own tables with whatever drink they want – rather than only being able to drink whatever the race officials serve up.

    I’m sure it does help at the races that offer this to the elites. Of course, not all races do.

    SwampTiger wrote:
    -People may stress out and focus too much on hydration and nutrition, but it is an important component of a successful marathon and should not be overlooked.

    It’s true that there is obviously benefit in getting the fueling right. My interest in this point is with the people who focus on this more than they focus on getting in the required training. Without the training, no fueling strategy will help you. With the right training, the right fueling strategy will be the icing on the cake.

    SwampTiger wrote:
    -While I believe there is value in looking at what the elites do, it is also true that 4-5 hour marathoners have different needs than elites. I’m not a 4-5 hour marathoner, but I’m not an elite either.

    Yes, there probably are different needs but I have seen suggestions that the difference in needs is greatly overstated. Because of the high intensity elites are running at, there is reason to believe they experience as much glycogen depletion as anyone out there. At the lower intensities that most of us run, especially if we are out there for 4-5 hours, we rely much more heavily on fat stores, which are a nearly unlimited energy resource.

  • #18172

    SwampTiger
    Member

    I’m not sure it is a good idea to discuss my limited understanding of marathon physiology with Ryan, but here goes anyway….

    It’s true that there is obviously benefit in getting the fueling right. My interest in this point is with the people who focus on this more than they focus on getting in the required training. Without the training, no fueling strategy will help you.

    We agree on this point.

    With the right training, the right fueling strategy will be the icing on the cake.

    I’m not sure I agree with “Icing on the cake”. Your training will support a certain level of performance, but without the right fueling strategy you won’t achieve that level of performance. There probably are many different “right” strategies.

    Yes, there probably are different needs but I have seen suggestions that the difference in needs is greatly overstated.

    I don’t doubt that the difference is overstated, but I believe that it is real.

    Because of the high intensity elites are running at, there is reason to believe they experience as much glycogen depletion as anyone out there. At the lower intensities that most of us run, especially if we are out there for 4-5 hours, we rely much more heavily on fat stores, which are a nearly unlimited energy resource.

    I agree that at the lower intensities we rely more heavily on fat. I also believe that the elite’s bodies are better at using fat at higher intensities. That is part of the reason they are elite. How do those opposing factors balance??

    Finally, even if slower runners use a greater proportion of fat, they still need glycogen for optimum performance. If they run out of glycogen, they bonk. They are out there longer than elites and their bodies aren’t as good at conserving glycogen.

  • #18173

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    SwampTiger wrote:
    I’m not sure I agree with “Icing on the cake”. Your training will support a certain level of performance, but without the right fueling strategy you won’t achieve that level of performance.

    But you will come very close, relatively speaking, unless you really screw up.

    SwampTiger wrote:
    There probably are many different “right” strategies.

    As with most things, there surely are and these depend on large part on the individual and his or her goals.

    SwampTiger wrote:
    I agree that at the lower intensities we rely more heavily on fat. I also believe that the elite’s bodies are better at using fat at higher intensities. That is part of the reason they are elite. How do those opposing factors balance??

    Finally, even if slower runners use a greater proportion of fat, they still need glycogen for optimum performance. If they run out of glycogen, they bonk. They are out there longer than elites and their bodies aren’t as good at conserving glycogen.

    They are out there longer than the elites, which means they will most likely consume much more fluids than elites. Make those fluids a sports drink and they are getting quite a few calories. Just for kicks, I tried something out. A 180 pound person running 26.2 miles in 4:30 will burn approximately 3592 calories. 8 ounces of Gatorade, which is what most marathons offer, has 50 calories. If a 4:30 runner drinks 20 8 ounce cups during the course of a marathon, which from what I’ve heard could be an underestimation, that’s 1000 calories consumed. Combine that will well over 1000 calories worth of glycogen that the body stores and, even if a person is burning glycogen and fat at a 50/50 ratio, this person will have quite a bit of left over glycogen at the finish line.

    I think we’re probably overanalyzing for the purposes of the original question, though. I’m not suggesting that nobody should ever try a gel or two, I’m just saying that they aren’t required and many people who use them thinking they are required might find that they do just as well without if they tried. What I would say is that I see some people turning marathons into 26.2 mile long buffets and I do think this goes beyond overkill.

  • #18174

    randys
    Participant

    Just wanted to add a note regarding the glycogen stores of well trained runners.

    According to Dr. Noakes, (in “Lore of Running”; a reference on running physiology); the average non trained individual has about 1400 calories of glycogen stored in muscles. A well trained runner can more than double that; many well trained runners store 2400-3000 calories in glycogen.

    Assuming a modest weight, highly trained runner, its possible to store enough glycogen to run a marathon burning no fat and requiring no refueling.

    Of course nobody runs 100% on glycogen (at marathon pace) which makes it easier to cover the distance without exhausting all carb reserves.

    Randy

  • #18175

    Anne
    Member

    Tim, your first marathon is just around the corner!

    Nothing new to add here I just want reemphasize the importance of not trying anything new race day as tempting as it may be. As stated earlier-if it works for you on your long runs then go with it for your marathon.

    Check the marathon website to see what sportsdrink they’ll have available & try it beforehand. If you’ve been training with Gatorade & they have Ultima you could be in for a less than pleasant surprise.

    I’ve run 8 marathons & have used gels at all of them, mile 8 & 16. The benefit may be more mental for me then physical. I alternate water & sportsdrink at the stops, 1/2 cup or so. Hopefully you’ve been training in weather conditions comparable to what you’ll have at the marathon, if it’s unseasonably hot & humid, make adjustments.

    My blood sugar level drops big time when I run long so I always have either hard candies or jelly beans with me.

    Like many aspects of running, you have to figure out what works best for you.

    Good luck at your marathon!

  • #18176

    r-at-work
    Member

    good topic, great advice…

    practice on your long runs, find out what works for you… I wish I could follow exactly what the elites do, but then I’d have to stop running about mile 15 because I’m so slow…

    I have found that Ultima is not on my diet plan, Gatorade is great and several types of energy gel work fine, also I do not tolerate those with caffeine… if I’m doing a long run I can go further on less as long as I have water… and I need more water when it’s hot… nothing weird for me… I have tried to keep an open mind, tried a dixie cup of beer once at mile 21 (on a race that was going badly) and found it was great… this last marathon(#9, on 3-19) it settled my stomach and THAT was a good thing.. so who’s to know…

    You might do well to read some stuff on Hyponatremia to get another angle on this subject (sorry don’t have a link)… and I’ll also say that the two best things I’ve ever had during different races were a lemon Jolly rancher and preztel nuggets… but I wouldn’t carry them, can’t explain it, just the way it is…

    have fun trying to figure it out… and keep in mind that your needs and tastes may change…

    Rita

  • #18177

    SwampTiger
    Member
    Ryan wrote:
    I think we’re probably overanalyzing for the purposes of the original question, though. I’m not suggesting that nobody should ever try a gel or two, I’m just saying that they aren’t required and many people who use them thinking they are required might find that they do just as well without if they tried. What I would say is that I see some people turning marathons into 26.2 mile long buffets and I do think this goes beyond overkill.

    Yes we are probably overanalyzing and we hijacked Tim’s thread, but sometimes it taks a question to get a good discussion going. I wasn’t suggesting that gels are required. My point was that the fueling and hydration needs of 4-5 hour marathoners are different than for elites.

  • #18178

    Run
    Member

    Nobody, hijacked my thread, I appreciate the discussion, the responses more or less confirmed what my plan was to begin with, so thats good. Thanks to all

  • #18179

    Ed 1
    Member

    Good luck to you Tim.

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