Ask Sugar Runs: Fueling for Long Runs
I just got a shipment of my favorite running fuel and I'm sooooo excited. I'm very lucky to be a Honeystinger ambassador because I really love their product. My friend Megan introduced me to the brand when I started training for my first marathon. Once I tried their Pomegranate Acai energy gel, I was hooked. They're natural and organic and they also happen to taste delicious. This post is not entirely about Honeystinger (nor is it sponsored by them). Its about fueling for long runs.
I was recently asked what I eat before my long runs. If you read my last post, you know my training has improved this time around and my long runs are much more manageable. This is in part because I used my first marathon to practice different methods of fueling and because my body has adjusted to the stress of training. I want all of you who are training for your first marathon, or your fifth marathon, not to be discouraged when you keep hitting a wall or you feel like what you're using to fuel your body isn't working out. It takes time to train your body to accept food during a long run. Most of my first training session, I threw up after every long run. My body was just not adjusted to eating and digesting while running. I have had a few runs during this training session that ended that way! So it's always about adjusting and changing to what your body needs.
First piece of advise, don't think you can go without fuel. The general idea is that any run over 2 hours, requires putting calories in your body. I hit the point of needing those calories at exactly 2 hours. You might need it at an hour, or an hour and a half. Part of training is figuring it out! I spent all of my last training cycle discovering what worked for me. Here's a sample of what's working for me now, if you're interested in trying it:
At least 30 minutes before a long run over 15 miles: I eat half or a whole apple and 1 pack of Honeystinger chews.
At least 30 minutes before a run that is less than 15 miles: Usually I don't need anything before. If I'm hungry though, I love a Honeystinger waffle to hold me over. No one likes running with a hungry belly.
During a long run of less than 15 miles: I love Honeystinger gels. My favorite flavor is the Pomegranate Acai. I can usually handle a 14 mile run with no fuel. But I'm right at the 2 hour mark when I hit 14 miles, so I just go without. If I'm doing 15 miles, I take one at mile 5 or 6. This is about 40 - 50 minutes into my run. It usually takes 40-45 minutes for the fuel to digest and for your body to start using, so that puts me at an hour and a half right when my body starts to need it. I also make sure to take water with me. Just plain water on these shorter runs to rehydrate the sweat loss. I know a lot of folks don't like drinking while they're running. I didn't like it initially because it messed up my breathing, but it's good to practice taking in water during your runs and working on maintaining a breathing pattern. Once you get to a marathon distance, you need the water and hydration is super important.
During a long run over 15 miles: I take at least 2 gels. One at mile 6 and 12.
During a marathon: I take 3 gels - mile 6, 12, and 18. I also add Nuun to my water. Another great product that I'm lucky to be an ambassador for - Nuun Active tabs contain electrolyte and vitamins that your body needs to replenish during your run. There are tons of other electrolyte enhanced drinks to choose from - Powerade, Gatorade, Propel, Clif Sports Drink. The beauty of training is finding what you like and what works, and then ordering it in bulk.
It took me a lot of trial and error. I started out eating nothing before my long runs, and taking chews rather than gels during it. Big mistake. My stomach couldn't process the chews and I always ended up vomiting afterwards. The gels are just enough for me. Other folks need to eat energy bars and chews on their runs. The beauty of training is that you learn something from every run. Even if you end a run throwing up and feeling terrible, you can figure out what isn't working so the next run is better and you can improve.