Runner's Fuel

If you’re planning on a long-distance run like a half or full marathon, it’s important to provide fuel for your body during the race. It’s also vital to properly carb load beforehand so you have plenty of muscle glycogen, but there’s only so much you can store up, which is why you’ll need to refuel during the race, according to Runner’s World.

What the Experts Recommend

The magazine notes that gels, bars and drinks are good sources for the 30 to 60 grams of carbs you’ll need, and every 20 minutes, you should try to eat or drink them along the course to provide time for your system to absorb and spread the fuel to your muscles.

Both Runner’s World and the BBC Good Food site recommend that you practice fueling as part of your training. If you’re training for a marathon, you should practice drinking or eating carbs during a run in your final eight weeks of training so that your gut is also trained and you know what works for you, according to BBC Good Food. In addition, it suggests that you select high-GI (glycemic index) and easily absorbed carb options to help you avoid nausea and discomfort during the race, as well as including some carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drinks when possible.

Timing is Everything

During the race, don’t wait to fuel up – start early and often, so your glycogen stores aren’t depleted. A carb goal of 30g per hour can be accomplished by consuming a little at a time, which will help avoid your stomach getting overwhelmed.

Runner’s World also says it’s a good idea to visit the race website to find out if they’re providing a certain brand of gel to determine if your body can tolerate it. On race day, if you do consume them, the magazine suggests diluting them with water along the course to help your body absorb them.

Each person is different in choosing what, how much and how often he or she drinks along the course, but it’s typically best to replace what you lost in sweat and drink just enough to quench your thirst. High-carb sports drinks may be an option for some. During training, you can experiment with the quantities of these items that will provide you with about 30g of carbs, according to the BBC Good Food site:

  • One and a half carbohydrate energy gels
  • One 16 fl. oz. bottle of a sports drink
  • One large cereal bar or carbohydrate-based energy bar (low-fiber)
  • One large banana