When my long runs started to creep up into the double digits, I had a new bridge to cross: how to get calories and nutritients into my body without stopping—as in literally while still running. I knew I could actually stop on a long run to refuel, but I also knew realistically I would not do this during a race, so I wanted to be sure and practice refueling the way in which I would do it for a race—on the go.
This was a challenge at first because I had to train myself and my stomach on how to be able to do this. So I practiced.
I started out by consuming an energy gel at the end of a track workout—right before my cool-down. After finishing my track intervals, I consumed a PowerBar Energy Gel, which I quickly learned is not the best-tasting kind out there, then spent a couple minutes stretching before slowly jogging my cool-down. I jogged slowly because a.) I had just completed a track workout and b.) because I was cautious about how my stomach would react to the energy gel. Luckily I had no adverse reactions to the gel, which was a good sign.
Then it was on to step two. In step two, I wanted to try and taking an energy gel in the middle of a long run but still actually stopping to take it. I would run for about one hour, stop and take the energy gel, then continue running again as soon as I had finished the gel. Almost “on the run” but technically not. I did this a couple of times before moving on to step three—as I like to call it.
Then came the third and final step: consuming energy gel while actually still running, which definitely had its challenges. Once again, after an hour into my long run, I took an energy gel from my pocket, tore off the top and started to consume the gel. I definitely found it a little challenging. I didn’t realize how difficult it is to eat and swallow when you are breathing that fast! I ended up taking pretty small bites because I was afraid I am going to choke. And then, depending upon the brand of gel, it can get all over your lips and hands and become very sticky—not all that enjoyable while running. Finally, there is always the dilemma about what to do with the trash. First you have the small piece from tearing off the top and then the larger piece. Sometimes I will loop around back home and drop it off there, or if I have a pocket, I’ll stick it in there knowing that it will be washed out after the run anyway.
I’ve experimented with different types of fuel over the past few years. I’ve found things that do not work (e.g. Swedish Fish in the middle of winter are way too hard and chewy to eat while running) and some of my favorites energy gels (e.g. GU).
- The thickest—you almost have to chew it if the weather is cool/cold.
- Best tasting—I love almost all of their flavors, except the strawberry-banana flavor. Vanilla bean, espresso love, chocolate outrage, and mint chocolate are some of my favorites.
- Not all-natural
- Great taste—not as good as the GU flavors but still very good.
- Thicker consistency
- I don’t think this works at all. Any time I take one of these, I do not feel any different—not a good sign.
- Good flavors
- I really like the idea of the litter leash (once you tear the top off, the leash keeps it attached instead of having two separate pieces of trash), but the last two times the litter leash has ripped off as well.
- Natural and 90% organic
- Much more watery than most other gels—I like this because I don’t feel like I need water to wash the gel down, but at the same time, the gel more easily gets all over my fingers.
- Has a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein—Maybe it is just in my head, but I really think the little bit of protein helps. (Most gels do not have any protein in them.)
- Flavors taste very good
Clif Blok Shots
I really like Clif Shot Bloks, but I can’t eat them while running. Instead, I will take them prior to going out for a run–especially if I don’t eat breakfast beforehand.
PowerBar Energy Gel Blasts
Another product I will eat prior to heading out for a run—not while actually running. I really like the taste of these (except the lemon), and they taste like gushers.