I used to think running and fueling were enemies. At least they were for me. I could not eat while running and I could not DRINK while running. If I did, I would get terrible stomachaches and side cramps. Well last year I tried training for a marathon and failed miserably and the main thing I could point my finger at was my lack of fuel so I knew something had to change. My running this year has been an experiment of sorts. I knew I wanted to figure out what/when/how much I needed to fuel and hydrate to be a better runner but I knew it was not going to be easy. When I started training for my Summerfest Half Marathon back in April, I took those initial “long” runs (aka 4-5 mile runs) to get this figured out. I had been running much farther than my plan had me running so this was my perfect opportunity to give it a shot. It is one thing to find out something does not work when you are 1-2 miles from home rather than 7-8 miles away from home… Here is how the experiment went…
First I started with water. For most people this would not be something you would have to “train” your stomach to accept while running but my stomach is a brat and if I even THINK of doing something it will not like, it punishes me… When I first started drinking water, I would literally take one sip and be crumpled over on the side of the road trying to work out a nasty-ass side cramp but I powered through this a few times until it dawned on me that this might have something to do with the fact that I am waiting until I am thirty to drink? Ummm… so I tried drinking a little sip every mile or so. Mile one – little sip, no cramp…mile two – little sip, no cramp! Ah hah!! Apparently I needed to be drinking water BEFORE I was thirsty! Well that was easy enough! Now I can chug water with the best of them and I am pretty sure I consumed about 60+ oz during the freaking hot sweat fest that was the Summerfest Half Marathon! (I wanted to link to the nasty reviews but I think they took them down or something! Figures!) So apparently I finally had this hurdle overcome!
Now what about before running? I used to have to rely on what I had put in my belly the night before and let me tell you, I rarely go 3 hours without eating so just imagine eating dinner, three hours until bed time, sleep all night, get up and run. Yeah, that is pushing it for me… but I always used to have terrible “issues” if I ate before I ran… what to do? Well, this was actually pretty simple. I had been grabbing something right before heading out of the door to run – like barely finished chewing and I would leave. Well, duh? I should know my stomach better than that by now to know me rushing and eating is NEVER good, run or not! So I decided to wait 45 mins-1 hour after eating something in the morning before running and then leave and this has actually worked pretty well! Some mornings I need a bit more time before I feel safe leaving but 9 times out of 10 I am good to go after 45 mins or so. My favorite food options tend to be a banana and almond butter with a side of rice cake and almond butter. Toast makes me feel a little wanky and anything real sweet puts me over the edge so banana, rice cake, and almond butter it is!
One more stop. The during-run fuel… This was honestly the scariest experimenting for me because I knew that a bad food in my tummy during my race could potentially kill it. Well, to be honest I didn’t really try that many items because 1) I hate processed food so why eat it when I am running… and 2) natural whole food type items are not very easy to pack and eat on the run (picture taking a big chomp outta an apple on a run ) So the main items I did try where honey, agave, Larabars and dates. Honey worked OK but I didn’t really feel like it was doing as much as it could. Agave worked better than honey but was soooooo messy… I thought honey was bad but at least honey stays semi-solid when heated. Agave seems to just pour all over everything! I remember by the end of the Bellin 10K, my agave was all over my legs, arms, face, etc! Both Larabars and dates sat in my stomach like lead. I do like Laras when I am not running but you can keep dates. ICK! Way too sweet for me and the texture – brrha! But then I randomly ended up with a sample of Clif Shot Bloks. Holy heaven what a great find! Yes, they are kinda processed but they are 95% organic and contain only pronounceable ingredients so I think I will make an exception! And they have been working so well for me! Tomorrow I will put them to another test, my first double digit test and see how it goes
I think this whole fueling and running thing will be an on going experiment and it seems nothing works exactly the same for every runner but maybe you will be able to use one or two of these suggestions in your training. TGIF and time for bed so I can run like the wind tomorrow (LOL – funny joke)!
Disclaimer: I am not a dietitian or trained professional, just simply someone sharing my experiences