Our bodies and minds rebel against us, with fatigue and exhaustion, when we don’t consume enough fuel on our runs.
Ultramarathoners and marathoners describe this particular feeling as “The Wall” but it’s not reserved for such long distances – total energy depletion can happen in shorter races and training runs.
There’s a way to minimize this dreadful experience.
Running gels (or energy jelly beans, electrolyte drinks, chomps, and blocks), when ingested throughout a race, replenishes your glycogen stores to give you sustained energy.
Glucose, a basic form of carbohydrates and sugar, is stored as glycogen in muscles. But only in limited amounts – approximately 90 minutes worth of muscle glycogen. And that means eating energy gels during your run, before you lose the will to run.
It’s similar to filling your auto gas tank – you want to keep a certain level of fuel in reserves to avoid running on fumes.
When should you eat running gels?
Every runner processes carbohydrates at different rates, so there’s no set formula for optimal gel intake. But there are some guidelines:
1| Practice running and eating gels at different paces and durations to see what works for you. Your stomach might not tolerate certain gels and flavors at faster paces or longer runs.
Some runners choose to fuel every 30 minutes, while others do so every 45-60 minutes. The key is to consume gels proactively, before your energy dips.
2| Try to eat gels early in your race, before your stomach gets upset.
3| Always follow gels with water (to speed the absorption of running gels), not with a sports drink (or risk sugar overload).
If you’re looking for a DIY running gel…
What are your favorite running gels? Leave a comment below!
Everything You Need to Know About Energy Gels, Competitor
DIY: Endurance Gels, lululemon
Lessons on Fueling for Training and Racing, McMillan Running
featured image via Luke Michael