Those training for longer distance races like the marathon and half know the importance of fuelling for success. Taking fuel throughout a longer race can make a big difference in helping you reach the finish line faster while also feeling better along the way. Proper fueling can both improve performance and delays fatigue.
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But how does one know how to properly fuel for a race? As a general rule, you should fuel for any race lasting more than 75min, which for most people is 15K and up. The science suggests fuelling with 30-60 grams of easily-digestible carbohydrates per hour of running. That’s about two gels or one package of chews per hour.
As for what type of fuel is best; you have plenty of options. Go to any running store and you will find no shortage of energy bars, gels and chews tailored for endurance athletes and which promise the ideal combination of energy (namely simple sugars) and electrolytes (sodium and potassium). Some even have caffeine, vitamins, amino acids and more. To complicate matters more, energy products seem to come in every flavour and variety imaginable from plain old vanilla bean to the more exotic pecan maple bacon.
And with so much choice and selection, finding the right fuel that works for you is not always easy or straightforward. In all cases, be sure to practice taking fuel during a training run or tune-up race. Try out a few different types and flavours of gels or chews in order to find what you like best and also what works best.
Once you find something you like, test it, try it out then try it again. See how much your body can tolerate and practice getting used to handling and consuming the fuel while on the run. There will likely be accidents, spills and tummy aches (i.e. GI issues) too. The more you practice, the better prepared you’ll be.
For those who don’t like the texture of gels, are terrible with drink cups or prefer to avoid chomping on chews, there are a number of alternate every-day options that could work just as well:
- Dried fruit such as raisins, craisins, prunes or apricots
- Soft candy such as jube jubes, jelly beans, gummi bears or whatever you prefer
It shouldn’t have to be said but the golden rule of racing is “nothing new on race day!” Make sure you practice your fueling in advance and be comfortable and familiar with your energy choice.