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Nutrition Before, During & After Your Run-Part II

Nutrition: During the Run

If you haven’t read Part I on eating before your fun, start there.

Ok folks, here is part two of the three part series on nutrition. Today I will go over what to consume during the run itself. Here we will enter into the world of substances manufacturing specifically to be consumed during exercise. This post will be most pertinent to those runners who regularly run 60 minutes or longer. If you never pass the one hour threshold, liquid intake will suffice to get you through your run and on to your post run nutrition. But for those hour+ runners, in my opinion, need some sort of nutritional replenishment during the run itself. This will help to get you through your run feeling energized while maintaining other bodily stores that are necessary for sustainable running.

The main reason we want to ‘eat’ while running is to replenish the electrolytes and glycogen that we burn while exercising. In order to keep going our body needs to have fuel to restore our glycogen levels. Glycogen is found in the liver and muscular tissues that are drawn on by the muscles themselves for conversion to energy.

Everyone’s body has a different capacity level for glycogen. This is why some runners need to replenish earlier in the run than others. As our glycogen levels deplete, they must be replaced before they get too low. When you hear of someone “bonking” or “hitting the wall” it is often due to the runner totally depleting their glycogen levels. 

 Ok, so what are our options?

 My hands down favorite provider of fuel is Hammer Nutrition so I’ll use their products to describe the different forms. They offer three main options for replenishment:

Hammer Gel

The gel form is by far the most popular choice. Individually packaged and sold in bulk to be used with a squeezable gel bottle, this stuff works. Gel packets can be placed in shorts pockets, fuel belts, hydration pack pockets, or even in sports bras, bros, and man jocks (I don’t recommend this…I don’t say this from a position of experience…just a wise inclination). The key is to be able to easily grab the packet, rip off seal, squeeze the packet, down the goods, then place empty package back in storage location.

A rule of thumb is to consume one gel shot per 45 minutes of activity. It is best to chase with liquid to wash down and clean mouth of stickiness.  

The downsides of the gel packet are the hassle of carrying an empty packet and the sticky residue that oftentimes finds itself on your hands, mouth, and clothes. I have become pretty darn proficient at this art but still get frustrated with the occasional gooey hand. 

You’d think that the pain of running would be worse than a sticky hand, but these little nuisances add up! Pretty soon you are walking into your local running shop going postal on the guy who sold you the product; not good I tell ya!  

Hammer Bar

In my mind, the Gel is the way to go. However, if you just can’t stand the consistency of a gel or you absolutely need the feeling of a solid substance entering your stomach, Hammer Nutrition has the Hammer Bar.

The Hammer Bars provide much of the same nutritional value but in a less efficient form to consume while running. For me, running and chewing at the same time is like trying to eat a hot dog while brushing your teeth. I run out of air, I choke, and it takes me forever to get the thing down. However, there is a market out there for those folks who don’t mind stopping for a breather, taking in a beautiful wonder of nature, or for those who just plain don’t mind stopping in the middle of their run to eat a bar.

Hammer Powder Products

Sustained Energy and Perpetuem are two products offered to be mixed in with your water bottle or other hydration device with water. I have heard mixed reviews in regards to the taste of these magic powders but in general, none of these products are going to blow your tastebuds; they aren’t supposed to taste GREAT, good maybe, more like good enough to get down without a gag reflex or unreasonable discomfort.

These two products are designed for sustained energy over very long runs. Think ultra marathon training. They offer an all in one option for hydration, electrolyte replacement, glycogen fuel AND protein to help repair muscles that you broke down earlier in your run.

Other Brands and Options

The two other big players are Gu and Powerbar. They both have a variety of products that fall into these same categories. If the gooeyness is an issue, try the Power Gel. It is more liquidy and easier to get down. Gu has a million different flavors and their packaging, in my mind, is supremely manufactured. One other random product of note, mostly for its hilarity, is Vespa! Vespa CV-25 is a wasp extract, bee propolis, and royal jelly formula which supposedly offers like-effects to our above mentioned gels.

The best way to find an energy source supplement is by trial and error. Test out the different brands and forms; you should know pretty quickly what will and will not work for you. My recommendation is first Hammer Nutrition, then Gu, then Powerbar. But also try out the others. There may be a secret weapon out there just for you!

Happy Running!


1 Jeff { 04.03.11 at 6:08 pm }

I’d like to provide some old school perspective. Back when running LSD workouts (look it up) in my Nike waffle trainers, we didn’t have factory foods like gels and bars. On long runs, we would circle back to the car, and eat half a banana, or a couple of fig bars, or half of a peanut butter sandwich, and wash it down with some water. We wouldn’t have paid a buck for a teaspoon of honey with some salt in it, especially when it tastes as bad as GU does. Why not just eat some honey? And we would never have paid a buck for an energy bar, which is little more than a vile tasting candy bar that costs twice as much. Are these factory foods really worth it?

2 Chase { 04.04.11 at 8:38 am }

Jeff, you definitely have some great points! My one rebuttal is this: today…people want convenience. Hand held water bottles and individually packaged energy gels create a scenario where you don’t have to do loops to hit up the car or take the time to stop and wolf something down. For some reason the idea of a 20 mile loop is much more appealing than 2 10 mile loops. If I run 10 miles out, there’s nothing I can do but run back. If I see the car half way, there’s temptation to bail early. And I know this is minuscule, but I think there is some benefit to continuous running…without stops. As as far as taste goes….I think the Hammer Gels taste great…Montana Huckleberry tastes like Gramma’s pie!

Final note: Do I NEED a device that is a cell phone, music player, computer, GPS, with millions of apps and games? ….No, but I sure do love my iPhone!

Btw: I did some research on LSD runs…long slow distance…question….how slow is slow and how long is long? I know this is a Lydiard inspired phenomenon and was and is very successful. Sometimes I feel like I run my long days too fast…

3 tom o { 12.29.11 at 7:33 am }

I often wonder the same about all the energy bars and gels. I ran 2 marathons in 3:05 with only water the first one in 1980, I did consume gatorade the 2nd time in 1998. I was told by a 2:19 Marathoner that your body can’t process sugar the last 8 miles so anything other than water was a drain on your system. My last two Marathons, 2010 Chicago and 2011 NYC have been my worst ever and I trained and used GU and ate bananas and oranges and have failed to break 4 hours on either one. The 6 previous Marathons I ran, included the 2 – 3:05′s and 2 at 3:11, 1 at 3:12 and one 3:25, and water was the only thing I used.

Maybe it is old age that has slowed me, but I wonder is we don’t over think ouselved sometimes. Run and eat later, of course eat correctly the weeks before and come to the start line in race shape.

4 Chase { 03.04.12 at 8:40 am }

I doubt the use of gu’s and other supplements contributed to an over 30 minute decline in time. I’d say your fitness or mental game, perhaps age, have declined or contributed to your decline…and I definitely don’t buy that calories don’t help late in a race…if the science says that…I don’t believe in science.

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