Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Training Tuesday

Fueling 101

Monday: Intervals (3 minutes at comfortably hard pace, 1 minute recovery repeats)

Fueling for distance is an important aspect of training. Mid-run fueling provides us with energy our body needs to continue running. It is incredibly important that prior to race day, you have a plan for fueling. There are a variety of brands, textures and flavors out there, so how do you know which one is the right one for you?

I am personally in search of the best fueling product for me. With my race day nerves, I want something that won't upset my stomach even more so. In the past, I've practiced a few times during my distance runs, felt fine and called it good. I've also always gone with big-name products because I figured that they were the most reliable. Is that true though? I know of some great products that are still very small businesses and not as well known yet. With the disaster of a race I had earlier this month, I really don't want to go down that road again.

I've been doing some investigating to find out more about why fueling is important, what it does physiologically to the body and to research some brands. Something called high-octane fuel is a highly concentrated product used in your typical energy gels, chews and sports beans. These sports products provide sugar level stability, carbohydrates and electrolytes to the body. These are all essential pieces needed to have a successful long-distance run. In general, runners should take in 30-60 grams of carbohydrates for every 75 minutes they are running. It is suggested that you begin taking in fuel at 30 minutes to avoid running on an empty tank

It was suggested that some runners take in small bits of fuel every 15 minutes. This has helped some with GI issues to take in fuel in smaller quantities and has been easier for them to digest in the long run. It is also highly suggested to take in fuel with some sort of hydration. Your body needs the water to dilute the high-octane products so that it is able to circulate in the body and be used effectively.

So what products are available for mid-run fueling? Let's dig in a little bit...

  • Sports Drinks: Drinks such as Powerade and Gatorade provide a supply of carbohydrates such as maltodextrin and glucose plus water and sodium for dehydration. Sports drinks should have 6-8% carbohydrate concentration to absorb the sugar and water properly.
To calculate this, divide the number of grams of carbohydrate in an 8-ounce serving by 2.4. For example, if a sports drink has 15 grams of carbohydrate per 8-ounce serving, the carbohydrate percentage is 6.25 Source: Active.com   
Look for a sports drink with at least 110 mg of sodium for every 8 oz in it. This will help replenish the sodium that is lost while running. Make sure that if you choose this option, you are taking in 30g of carbohydrate every 30 minutes for it to be effective in the body. 
  • Gels: These small, typically light-weight packages are very handy and easy to use. These concentrated packages of carbohydrates provide a fast-acting result in the body. Simply rip off the top and squeeze the gel into your mouth while on the run. Typically, gels are of a thicker consistency. I like to think of it as a frosting-like consistency. They come in many flavors and a variety of brands. When choosing a gel, look for a brand that has 25-30 grams of carbohydrates. You may want to consider a brand that offers extra electrolytes if you are planning to use it on a high-intensity work out or for a long distance run. Some brands have added caffeine to their products. Some runners enjoy the extra jolt while others find that they can get too jittery and it has actually hindered their run, not enhanced it. (Again, personal preference...)  Gels need to be taken with water in order to digest in the body properly. 
  • Energy Bars: Bars can be beneficial because of the added nutrients. Look for bars that have 40g or more of carbohydrates from food sources such as brown rice syrup, honey or dates. Choose a bar that has 200-250 calories and consume one every hour. It may be beneficial to break the bars into 4 smaller pieces and to consume a piece every 15 minutes with water. The smaller amounts will break down easier and keep you steadily fueled throughout your run. 
  • Chews: Chews are typically gummy-like consistency squares are similar to gels, however, due to its lower caloric content, it may be easier to digest. These compact blocks are most effective when they offer 5g of carbs and 10mg+ of sodium per block. Just as the other fueling sources, the blocks need to be taken with water. 
I have tried gels and didn't care for the texture. I have used shot blocks and those have worked well for me, however, I never feel that I am fueling myself with all natural sources. I am still looking into more natural sources of fueling so that I can compare it to some of the other fueling sources I have used. As anything in running, it takes trial and error to figure out what works best for you. I have a few new products that I received in my StrideBox but have not yet used. I am hoping to get out a few longer distance runs to test them out. I will keep you posted on my experience with them!

What do you use for mid-run fueling? Do you use natural products or more name brand products? I would love to hear your opinions. If you have any brands that you enjoy, please share them!

Today is another day to make yourself proud, start by getting out and being active! 

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