“Humans really weren’t designed to eat while running. We have to condition ourselves to this little trick, and do so while moving at relatively low aerobic effort levels so that there’s actually some blood flow to the stomach to pick up and use some of those calories we’re gulping down.” - Bob Shebest, Ultrarunner, Ironman, Certified Coach, Point Positive Coaching, LLC
So you thought running was simple? Just slap on some shoes and hit the road. Well, it is simple until you hit a certain point. As you increase your workout time and mileage, your body demands better fueling.
Push too far while taking in too little and you’ll suffer acute carb depletion: headaches, tunnel vision, nausea, irritability. Just ask my husband about my early running days. When I began my adventures in distance running, I would go out and run 10-15 miles without proper fueling. When I got home, I would hit the bed, exhausted, and spend the next hour in a carb depleted coma.
Teaching your body to fuel on the run is just as important as teaching your body to put one foot in front of the other.
I was once told that you can do about an hour’s workout on a meal. After that, your body will deplete it’s glycogen stores and you need to be taking in additional fuel.
It is a shot of easily digested calorie rich goodness. Seriously, it’s a quick and easy way to get carbs back in your body. Why do you need it quick and easy? When you are running, your body is pulling blood flow from your stomach to your working leg muscles. The reduced blood flow in your stomach means your body will have a much harder time digesting “normal foods”.
So, when do I take Gu?
According to GuEnergy.com, you should take one gel 15 minutes before training or racing in order to top off your electrolyte and glucose stores, followed by one every 30-45 minutes along the way.
And, that’s pretty much what I do. On the bike, I alternate 1 Gu OR a half a Cliff Bar every 30 minutes.
Keep it simple. Keep a routine. Keep doing it. Because, when you’re going the distance, nutrition and hydration are key factors to your success. Once you get behind on either, there’s no easy way to catch back up.