With my 8th half marathon coming up this weekend (Biggest Loser half in Eau Claire, WI), I wanted to write a post about running race day nutrition strategies.
I always had an interest in nutrition but it wasn’t until I started running and training for races that I realized how important nutrition is for athletic performance (and overall health). That is what led me to pursue a degree in dietetics and ultimately become a Registered Dietitian. This post will give you an idea of how to fuel properly DURING an endurance event.
Note: I am a Registered Dietitian but this post is a general overview of race day nutrition. Nutrition is very individualized and you have to find what works for you. If you need assistance, schedule an appointment to see a sports dietitian!
Fueling During an Endurance Event
I saw a post on Instagram the other week from a runner that said she always “hits the wall” around mile 23 of her marathon training. She also showed what she had consumed during her 23 mile training run that day – TWO GU gels and TWO bottles of water. My initial thought was “ONLY TWO GELS?!”. No wonder she was hitting the wall. (If you are “hitting the wall”, you are not fueling properly).
Here is the general rule for fueling during endurance exercise:
So, you can see that for a marathon distance, you are going to need 30-60g/hr, possibly upwards of 80-90g/hr of carbohydrates. This is AFTER THE FIRST HOUR. Events lasting less than 60 minutes do not require carbohydrates unless you were under fueled going into the event. You can see from the list that 2 GU gels = 50g carbohydrates. So for the marathon distance, you would need AT MINIMUM 2 GU gels per hour after the first hour. So only consuming 2 GU gels for 23 miles was clearly not enough.
Tip: Make sure to take the gels in slowly and drink plenty of water to help your body absorb the carbohydrates into the muscle. If you take it too quickly or without enough water, it can cause GI distress. And that’s no good when you’re running a marathon!
Personally, my energy gel of choice is PowerBar PowerGels. They are not as thick as GU gels so they are easier to consume. And I just like the flavors!
I recently stocked up on some of my favorite flavors. As you can see, some have caffeine and some don’t. They also have flavors with 2x caffeine (I just don’t like the flavors).
My race day strategy is to start gel-ing at mile 5 and I consume a gel every 2 miles after that. I really like the gels and it is like a little treat when I’m running. I think to myself, “just get to mile 7 and you can have another gel”.
I use the SPIbelt Sports / Running Belt to carry my gels for long runs.
I also recently bought a FlipBelt Waist Pouch to use for carrying my keys, phone, and money.
And I have the Amphipod Handheld 20 oz. Bottle I use for hydration during runs. It’s great for races because I can just stop at 1-2 of the water stops to refill my bottle versus having to stop more often for water.
“Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you purchase a product through this link. However, these are truly products I use and love! Visit my disclosure page for more information.”
For more runner-specific nutrition information, check out my webpage Sports Nutrition for the Female Endurance Athlete that I created as part of my graduate school non-thesis work. And stay tuned as I cover more running-specific nutrition strategies.
What is your fueling strategy during an endurance race?