Fueling for racing can be difficult and it can be hard to find exactly what works for you especially as you start entering longer run territory. We can be plagued with nausea, upset stomachs, the lack of desire to eat at all, and the worst of all, diarrhea. Nutrition can make or break a race. I am going to talk to you about what has worked for me. There is no definitive answer to what is right as we are all different but here are the basics:
There are three key components for a successful race as far as nutrition. Water, electrolytes and fuel.
Water: You should be drinking 300-500ml per hour for events over two hours in length. This should be clear water. Do not add electrolytes to your main source of water, keep your water clear so that you hydrate properly. (If you are running in hot, humid climates, increase to 400-600ml per hour)
Electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are essential electrolytes for every cell and muscle in your body to work. Your heart depends on these electrolytes to maintain a normal sinus rhythm. Adequate electrolyte intake is crucial in preventing muscle cramping. There are lots of options for electrolyte replacement. Some people prefer to take electrolyte pills, others put tabs in water. If you want to drink your electrolytes, bring a smaller bottle with you in your pack or on your hydration pack that is specifically for electrolytes. Drink this periodically through out the run. For longer runs, and in warmer conditions you may find that drinking electrolytes isn’t enough so you can try the pills and drink. Avoid high sugary drinks such as gaterade and poweraid as they are high in sugar and low in actual electrolyte content. Here are some options that I have tried:
—Hammer Endurolytes Fiz:
I am an ambassador for Hammer and I happy to stand behind products I truly love. Hammer nutrition has 4 awesome flavours and are not overly carbonated taste and contain vitamin B6! They also contain all your essential electrolytes. They have 100g of calcium, 50mg of magnesium, 200mg of sodium and 100mg of potassium per one tab which is meant for 500ml of water. Gu and Nuun also have electrolyte tabs and the concentration of electrolytes is similar.
—Hammer Endurolytes capsule:
If drinking electroyltes is not your thing you can take them in capsule form. I have personally only used these once and that was at The Coastal Challenge, an ultra marathon stage race in Costa Rica where the humidity can reach 100%. I just listened to my body and when I felt I needed or wanted to take one, I did. One capsule has a much lower electrolyte concentration compared to a fizz with 40mg of sodium, 50mg of calcium, 25mg of magnesium and 25mg of potassium. In races/runs longer than 2 hours 1-3 capsules can be consumed per hour.
This a great option if you don’t like the flavour of electrolyte tabs and if you don’t want to swallow capsules while you are running. Elyte is a liquid electrolyte replacement that is essential flavourless and can be easily added to your water. It contains no other ingredients other than the electrolytes themselves and have 125mg of sodium, 130mg of potassium and 11% magnesium in 1/2 tsp. The big downfall however is they lack calcium so it will be important to get calcium from another source. Calcium is a huge component in proper function of muscles and contractility of the heart.
As a rule, on runs that are longer than 2 hours you need to be consuming 150-300 calories per hour. Fuel is something I have struggled with the most. It is sometimes very difficult to think about eating when you are running but it is crucial. Your metabolic rate is increased greatly during a run, your cells and tissues and muscles are eating up calories often faster than you can replace it and if you don’t give your body fuel, you’re going to fade pretty quickly. I have tried so many different types of food while running such as classic “race food”, to real food. Everyone is different and what works for your stomach might not work for someone else’s. For the purpose of keeping this blog short and not boring you to death, I am only going to name a few nutritional options that have worked for me. I tend to stick to real food as it just sits better.
—Love Child Organic purees:
The thought of eating baby food weirds people out for some reason. Not me. I can’t do gels, and sometimes you need something like a gel that is fast, easy to get in and has about 100 calories in it. I found the perfect solution in Love Child Organics. They are all natural, all organic fruit and veggie purees and range from 70-110 calories. They taste delicious and are easy to get down, even when you are super nauseated..
—Hammer Nutrition Bars:
These are delicious and they don’t bother my stomach at all! They are packed with 220 calories and are really moist and easy to chew bar so it is easy to get it down the hatch! They have 26g of carbohydrates and 9g of protein and are made of all natural ingredients. They have 5 delicious flavours, my favourite being cashew coconut chocolate chip, obviously!
If you are a big fan of gels or chews, these are a pretty darn good choice. They have awesome flavours, are made of all natural/organic ingredients, have a 130 calories per package with electrolytes and are really easy to chew and don’t leave your mouth sticky which some gels and chews do.
—Plain Old Trail Mix
During The Coastal Challenge I couldn’t eat anything other than trail mix. I brought all my favourite running food, but for some reason everything made me nauseous other than trail mix. Trail mix is packed with calories, and good fats which are essential for proper cell function. You can also make your own trail mix and had chocolate chips and dried fruit if you like. A handful of trail mix can be 200-300 calories if it has a high nut/seed content which is exactly your caloric target per hour!
As I said, there are many options for fuel for running. These are just my favourites. The key here really is to make sure you are getting enough of all three components, fuel, fresh water and electrolytes to ensure you finish your race, or get through your training run without suffering unnecessarily!