Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ever played the Fueling Guessing Game?


Fueling is a tricky jester to tame.

Why is it such a challenge? Like a lot of things of running, it's not a perfect science. Throw in the fact that every runner has their own unique body composition, likes, dislikes, tummy toughness (or lack there of) and needs....and it can really be a game changer.


First, there's so many types of fuel to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming. There's the numerous gels (organic, flavored, unflavored, with caffeine, without caffeine, etc.). There are  "chewable" options (sport  beans, chomps, chews...many of these are like dense gummy snacks). There's powder electrolyte mixes you add to water and drink as you merrily run along. And, let's not forget the obvious....actual real  food (fruit, raisins, peanut butter, etc.).
too many choices...
Next, one needs to consider their individual needs.When I was a newbie, I could slam a gel at the start of a half marathon, and then again near mile 6 or 7 and all would be well. There were even a few times I took a (course-supplied) "bonus" gel near mile 10 or 11...you know, just for that final boost to get me to the finish line. No GI issues, or tanking before the finish line. As I gained more experience, though, and began running longer distances more consistently, my needs changed. My metabolism increased, requiring more frequent fueling. And my tummy did NOT enjoy all that extra fuel...
No two of us will have the same fueling needs....
We all have different likes and dislikes. Some runners are happy with the chewable fuel. Myself? not so much...I never seem to have enough saliva to easily "do the chews" while in motion. And, the powder mixes? Although I like the ones I have tried, all that water was simply too much water for this gal with an already compromised bladder. I still hate the feeling of a thick glump of gel going down my throat, but I put up with it because I know it's necessary (and nothing else seems to work for me).

Trial and error are necessary evils in figuring out what will work for you, in terms of not only convenience but also the fuel's effectiveness.. Unfortunately, this has to happen in real life...which means there will probably be a few experiments-gone-bad as you try some options. Fueling goes hand-in-hand with proper hydration to ensure everything stays in balance as you move and groove (that's an intended play on words...use your imagination). Too much fuel and not enough water (or, as I learned, too much Gatorade with too much fuel) can wreak havoc on your tummy.  After 12 years of running, I have finally figured out I need a gel every 5 miles, and have to have water with it (and no Gatorade without waiting a couple miles in between the fueling stops).
Well, that didn't work....
Last of all, trouble-shooting is often necessary in assessing what went right (no crashing) or what went wrong (cramps, too many porta-potty stops, dehydration, etc.). Did you wait too long before taking in more fuel? Was it an especially hot day? Or, conversely, was it cooler than usual and you still didn't drink enough water?

And here's the reality of it...even when you think you finally have it mastered, it can still be a guessing game! A hilly course will require more effort (thus possibly needing more frequent fuel). A hot day will require more hydration than usual, and possibly more electrolytes (to counter-act the loss of sodium through excessive perspiring). Also, there are those days when you do everything right, but still hit the proverbial wall before finishing the race. The good news? None of these fueling frustrations have ever kept me from lacing up and running anyways.

Have you ever played the Fueling Guessing Game? Did you arrive at a desirable answer, or are you still searching?  Have you fueling needs changed over the years?

 I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0. We're talking about fuel today. Please join us!!

30 comments:

  1. It really can be such a guessing game! Just when I think Ive figured out what works, I have a tough run or two and need to reevaluate things Luckily my stomach handles gels pretty well so I can be flexible about what I try.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My stomach used to handle gels great, but something changed in the past couple of years...either me or the formulas. I have to be careful to make sure I have plenty of water when I'm using gels, or I pay dearly for it a few hours after the finish line.

      Delete
  2. This just reminds me of the golden rule: nothing new on race day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True...but either my needs have changed or my tummy has, because some of the stuff I used to rely on just wreaks havoc on me now...

      Delete
  3. My worst race I tried a new on-course hydration drink. I didn't send me to the pottys but it was rough! You're supposed to try new fuels on long runs, but I usually forget. My stomach is much less sensitive on bike rides, so I try to test things out on the bike first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try to try the new stuff on training runs as well....

      Delete
  4. You bring up some interesting points. Perhaps some of my less then stellar performances were from a lack of fueling properly during a race. I never took into consideration that the race course should determine how much fuel you need too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did a half marathon on a perfect course on a perfect (somewhat cool) day, and bonked at mile 10 because it wasn't "hot enough" for me to be aware of drinking water at the water stations, etc. At least that's my theory LOL It's a delicate balance between staying ahead of the game and hydrating before you need it vs. over-hydrating, too.

      Delete
  5. I feel like it's always a guessing game. I'm okay with Gu's and honey stingers but sometimes my stomach just isn't happy outside of those. I've also starting eating these "fruit to go" bars that I put in my kids lunches and they are kinda the perfect for my running!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have heard of using packets of baby food...though I never think to look for them in the grocery stores. They might be a good "natural" alternative (?)

      Delete
  6. Fueling is tricky for sure and sometimes things that worked once don't work again! This summer I loved my mini snickers bars on my bike :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never thought of using mini candy bars! Do they stay cool enough? I'd be afraid of the chocolate melting (?)

      Delete
  7. I'm still playing the guessing game, but I think I'm getting closer to figuring out exactly what my body needs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it fun? I think I've spent the past couple years (at least) experimenting with new-to-me products in hopes of finding a better alternative to my current system.

      Delete
  8. I've been relatively lucky myself but I've had to help many friends and clients figure out what works for them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had this down-pat, until a couple of years ago...

      Delete
  9. Yes! A gel every 4 or 5 miles with water seems to do it for me! If it's a marathon though, a banana around mile 21 helps me tremendously.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you! Bananas are a great source of fuel (and nutrients). Unfortunately, I developed a larger than life aversion to them when I was pregnant with our second child...and just cannot eat them anymore (unless they're baked into bread or muffins) LOL

      Delete
  10. I've tried a bunch and find chews are best for me. I've also experimented with how often I take them during long runs and races. I think I've nailed a pretty good routine now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used chews a lot for my first 26.2 training, and I think I ate one too many and just cannot do them anymore...#highmaintenancerunner

      Delete
  11. All really good points to think about! I feel like I've figured out fueling for half marathon training for me but I'm sure it will be a whole different game with marathon training and I'll be back to some trial and error.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At least with marathon training, you'll have plenty of long runs to experiment with different options and strategies ;-)

      Delete
  12. Not on race day. I have the same breakfast and only water and gu.

    Otherwise, I'm open to try things (as long as it's not on a long run and I'm not near a bathroom.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always have to have some sort of breakfast, even just a granola bar.

      Delete
  13. It's SUCH a guessing game. And I honestly get tired of the same fuels so I'm constantly switching it up. At least I know what doesN'T work for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha ha! Same here ;-) (fruit snacks + Gatorade = MANY portapot stops)

      Delete
  14. I played the guessing game when I started doing half marathons. I can't do gels, and I could only find that out during test runs. I like Honey Stinger chews, but they can be a big big. I throw back a whole packet of Sports Beans and chew on a walk interval.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The guessing game is tricky. I like the taste of sport beans, but just have a tough time chewing them. maybe I need to be a little more patient and give them a few more chances (that is, when I'm cleared to actually run again) ;-)

      Delete
  15. Oh yes, I have! Now, I practice fueling on all my long rides and runs. I use Skratch Electrolyte replacement and Honey Stingers Chews now.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm still experimenting. I used to do honey stinger gel and chews, but all that sweetness mad me feel bad (not bathroom bad, just yucky). I tried huma gels and like them because they aren't as sweet and have a thinner consistency. I've found that adding in some real food like (pretzels, dried fruit) helps too.

    ReplyDelete