Running Fuel and Supplements 101
There is an overwhelming amount of running fuel and supplement options available to runners. Everything is made to sound like it works miracles and before you know it you've spent $50 on supplements that you probably don't need. I know I made the mistake of relying far to heavily on energy gel's and sport's drinks when I was training for my very first marathon because I didn't know any better. So let’s talk about the supplement and fuel options that are out in the running universe:
1. Energy Gels
When you run, your body uses both fat and carbohydrates to fuel itself. Ever heard of “hitting the wall”? It’s every runner’s worst nightmare; you run out of gas and fall into a sleeping beauty zombie type coma. Your body depletes its glycogen stores after 60-90 minutes of running and energy gels help you stay fueled. GU, Cliff shots, PowerAde gels, Sports Beans, Hammer gels, Honey Stinger Gels, and blocks are some of the more popular brands and differ slightly but everyone has their favorite so ask around. Plan on taking a gel every 45-60 minutes of the race but try not to train heavily dependent on them and ALWAYS take them with water. My favorite is the Salted Watermelon flavor GU but pick your poison. .
2. Sports Drinks
We all know about Gatorade and Powerade but what makes them a better choice than water? They contain carbs, sugar, and electrolytes like energy gels but in a far smaller amount. Their carb concentration is normally about 6-8% and are recommended only when you run longer than an hour. They are meant to help you perform, so if you aren't running longer than an hour, stick to water.
3. NUUN tablets
An electrolyte sports drink to combat the sugary sports drink, NUUN contains 0 carbs, 0 sugar and is all electrolyte (vitamin and minerals). It’s designed to keep you hydrated and is a wonderful thing.
Disclaimer: I received MESTRENGTH to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. It’s similar to NUUN in that it is an electrolyte mix but also contains 5 grams of creatine. What’s creatine? It’s normally used to increase muscle mass and is found in fish and meat. Many weight lifters use it to bulk up but in small amounts, it’s been shown to help increase your body’s ability to produce energy quickly. What this means for runners is that it’s effective during interval work or high intensity interval training. Kiwi strawberry was my favorite flavor.
Energy bits are incredibly bizarre but I work incredibly well. They are tiny “bits” of non GMO spirulina algae and work really well if you have a sensitive stomach. Personally I take 30 before a race and use both bits and energy gels during half or full marathons. I definitely recommend trying them for a healthier approach to fueling. They seem expensive but they break down to about the same price as gels, you’re just buying in bulk. Just don’t make the mistake I did and run a half marathon with the tin. It sounded like an annoying maraca the entire race. I now place each serving in plastic baggies.
Here is my disclaimer for vitamins, before you blindly reach for a multi-vitamin, first get a food tracker for a few days and track everything you eat. Then look at what vitamins you are lacking and supplement those. Important vitamins for runners: fish oil, Iron (many runners, especially women, find that they are anemic when they start training), Vitamin D (Especially in winter when you don’t get outside) and Calcium. But remember, first make sure you aren’t already getting the necessary amounts from the food you eat before taking a supplement. And also, check with a doctor. You should be getting annual phsyicals anyway so while you're there ask if it's a good idea to take any vitamin supplements. (Why we fear asking for our doctors advice on our health, I'll never know.)
So there you have it, a few fueling and supplement running options. Now remember, I'm not a Doctor or a dietician. But I know there's a lot out there that you really don't need and it's unfortunately a lot of trial and error. So ask around and always talk to a physician first. Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.