Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Long run drinking and fueling experiments

I've been trying some new things out for fuel lately and thought I'd share!

Most of my runs I don't really need to worry about fueling, just water. This summer was exceptionally hot and dry, so I brought water on almost every run. And that's OK with me; my pack gives extra room for carrying my phone and camera, keys, etc..

However, with all the longer runs I have been doing recently, fueling has been essential. 
It's just not going to be pretty if you are running all day on the trails and don't have anything to keep you going. 

I believe sugar is essential (carb), though some might prefer to add fats or protein to fuel with. The bottom line is that you need SOMETHING out there.. Figuring what the right combination of "something" is- that part can be tricky.

My personal observation is that in a race where you expect to run the whole thing without using the restroom (big potty, here!), it's best done on strictly non-fiber carbs (gels, sports drinks, beans, chews, etc..). This is best for races under 5-6 hours. 

Fiber and protein (i.e. bars, meat sticks, trail butter, real food), these things are known to cause "big potty". They also redirect your blood from elsewhere in the body to your stomach for digestion, and will lead to a stop or two in many people's races. They also, however, provide energy to keep a runner going longer and that is why ultra runners must have them if they are running for hours on end. (Only going on research here, since my longest run ever was not quite 6 hours).

After running out of some prepackaged bars, I decided that my 5 hour runs would need some alternative fuel, and I went to the kitchen to see what I could whip up. 

This is what I came up with:

#1
A sports drink, tasting like a non-alcoholic margarita, made from Agave syrup ( maybe 1/4 cup in a 20 oz bottle of water), a couple of True Lime packets, and some table salt to taste (electrolyte replacement). 

It worked beautifully over a 4+ hour run with lots of climbing (over 5000 ft). I didn't have any solids until about an hour from the end, when I ate 6 peanut MnMs. I drank both bottles because it was a hot day, and had no bathroom stops on that run. (I think I sweated most of it out.) 
A few weeks later I tried the same concoction with good result on a longer run (over 5 hours) with just a little less climbing.

 #2
A second fuel experiment involved solids. I expected to be out for over 5 hours on my last run and did not want anything too bulky, but I knew a little more substance might be needed. I don't like the idea of eating a sandwich with bread and fitting it in my pack, so I dropped the bread out of a PBJ and made a couple of PBJ pouches.

The ratio I used was 1:1 for PB and homemade jam: 2 big spoons of PB, 2 big spoons of apricot jam, placed inside of a baggie and smushed to make a sweet combo. Throw in a little salt, and it is good to go.

I made two pouches and started about 40 minutes into my run with some. To eat it, I just bit a hole in the corner of the baggie and squeezed some in my mouth. Then, I tucked the open corner in the middle and wrapped the rest of the pouch around it to make sure it didn't ooze all over my vest pack.

This was repeated again later in my run, until the bag was empty.



All I took to drink during this run was water, which was really all I needed. The PB concoction made me thirsty, and I was well hydrated and fueled.

Between the two experiments, I think I have a new 50k formula ready to go.I may be lucky with an iron stomach! I'm definitely not an expert and can't give you a carb /protein count, but it worked for me!

How about you? What do you fuel with? 
Have you ever tried making your own sports drink or using "real" food? What were your results? 

21 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I have had issues with dehydration in long events so I am always interested in what others do and try.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! Try one of these out on a long run first, especially if any of it has some race intensity in it. Let me know if you have any success!

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  2. Great post! When I was putting in longer runs, I mostly stayed with water only. I didn't want big potty issues. I'm slowly getting back to my longer endurance runs and bikes, so I'll let you know what I do.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Gerald! I'm looking forward to seeing what you end up going with!

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  3. Interesting "food for thought" here Raina! Both of your solutions sound awesome. I have experimented with dried fruit (apricots, raisins) on long training runs but haven't raced with them. I suppose they're too fibrous though.

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    1. They might work just fine for you. It's interesting how different bodies process the same foods a little differently!
      Definitely worth trying!

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  4. My longest race was somewhat 30k in mountains, so I really cannot have relevant opinion here. The best for me is water in camelbak (as much as possible in hot days), gel and natural nut bars (Chimpanzee or Raw Energy) they are easy to swallow and not make your mouth dry afterwards. After the race the best thing to get your stomach back to normal is little bit of water followed by one beer (0.5 liter). Next hour I can have a normal lunch.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Peter! The nut bars sound delicious. I have also thought of almond butter.
      I am like you.. usually no problem eating after a race, though I have had problems after some hard half marathons and marathons. Perhaps I've not tested myself hard enough yet at the ultra to know what to expect.

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  5. Those are some great ideas. I haven't tried to make my own drink, maybe I am just lazy but it seem so easy to just mix up something with powder :)

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    1. Maybe I'm lazy because I don't want to shop for powder :) ! Its OK to prefer something else. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  6. Every person is different, especially as to what their stomach will handle. I don't do runs long enough to need fueling - on the bike there's not as much stress so I can eat bars, rice cakes and lots of water of course. Interesting about sandwiches - I used to always pack a sandwich for the 45k trail race (and potato chips for the salt). Creamed rice is popular here. Anyway, keep experimenting until you find out what works for you.

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    1. I like the salty chips too, Ewen. After my last run I went right for some corn chips. Also, I think the RD is going to have some salt and vinegar potato chips on the course. My favorite!!

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  7. The stomach is a funny thing! My only problem in my 50 mile and longer races has been the stomach. A bit of nausea. I've been experimenting with different fuel sources to see which would work best. It's a science it seems. Also taking in the right amount of electrolytes/sodium. I ran 50 miles last weekend and used Cliff Blocks mostly with 1/2 PB&J sandwich twice and two sweet and salty bars. Used plain water and Gu Roctane electrolyte caps and all was good. Very little nausea. However, not sure I could stomach the Cliff Blocks for longer than 50 miles...it was getting tough at the end. I have found that the sweet and salty bars work great. I use them the most in training and in 50K's and should try using them more in the longer events...

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    1. We had some cashew clusters on our relay, and I bet those would work pretty good for a 5 hour race too, Robin. Interesting about the cliff blocks. I don't mind staying purely liquid or with blocks, but I don't like any stomach sloshing and that tends to happen without real food if it's hot and I am hydrating well.

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  8. I love the margarita idea! I will have to give that a try. Currently I am having a lot of luck running with Tailwind... My stomach tolerates it really well and I noticed that I don't need to fuel as much with the ~200 cal per 22oz bottle. But I do like "real" food on runs over 4-5 hours... I've carried dates, sweet potatoes before which work well for me. During my 100K attempt over the weekend, a few aid stations had Avocados.... wow.. those were terrific. I just need to find a way to carry them without them becoming guacamole... but I guess that would be ok too.. especially with the margarita concoction!

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    1. We are on the same train here, Jeff! Margarita and chips and guac.. After my last long run, chips and guac was the first thing to go in! I would never have thought to pack them though. I don't know what would result if I ate them on the run, but I know what happens if I eat them 8 hours earlier..

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  9. So far my experience in running (trail running, a little more than an hour), i consumed a gel with water previous to the running, but i was told that to get a better performance it is better to drink some water and to consume gel for races of more than an hour (it take 45 minutes for the body to start using the gel consumed as fuel). Gel is preferred because it is easier to consume (not need to chew while running) and the body can use it as energy faster than solid food. Little experience/knowledge about ti my friend, but hope it helps

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    1. You are correct about the ease of consumption, and i like hearing what you have used, Benjamin!

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  10. I've made my own fuel by carrying rice with salt, all squished up in a baggie, for long runs. But now that I don't run as far, I don't really need fuel. Plus my stomach has gotten more and more sensitive with time...now almost anything solid is a nightmare :(
    Have you felt that you needed any supplemental potassium?

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    1. Interesting you have tried rice in a bag! I wonder if your issues are due to what you eat while running, or more about what you eat before running, and the timing of it..Also, you run pretty intensely these days. I notice for harder and longer running (for me 10 milers and with intensity), I have way more issues. I also think it might be due to eating more frequently with higher mileage, which I am not really doing right now.

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    2. Oops! And about potassium.. I know it's important, but don't really know what it feels like to be low on potassium. I might rather be low than high, though.

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