…. I get by with a little help from my friends…
I don’t know if this old tune popped into my head because I am already thinking up candlelighting poems for my son’s Bar Mitzvah while matching each poem with a corresponding song or if it’s because I enlisted the help of Michele from Paleo Running Momma to talk to us today all about race fueling strategies.
…Oh I get by with a little help from my friends…
Michele is not only my friend, not only a Paleo running mom but also a certified running coach.
Flashback to May when we spent the day shopping and eating at Roosevelt Field Mall.
Michele’s running knowledge and race experiences are perfect for assisting us in further understanding the how, what, when, where and why of fueling strategies for races.
Sometimes we think we have our personal race strategies all figured out only to decide we need to make an adjustment which is why it’s always awesome to keep reading up on our running topics to find a new method, perspective, product or training technique to incorporate into our routine.
Do we need to take in fuel during a 5k and even a 10k? If so, does it matter at which point or is it a personal preference?
For a 5k or 10k you won’t need to fuel during the race itself, but what you eat prior to the race and leading up to it will make a difference in performance. You will want to be running your fastest and will be using carbs and glycogen stores for fuel, so increasing your carbs just a bit the night before will make sure your glycogen stores are topped off.
Prior to the race, quick burning carbs like a banana, toast, or something else high in carbs but low in fiber will help you race your best. No need to think about protein or fat prior to a race, that’s for afterwards.
For a half marathon, at what point should we begin fueling? Is it true that the hour mark is best because they say that’s when we have burned through glycogen?
For a half marathon or longer distance, you will also want your glycogen stores topped off (just as when you’re racing shorter distances), but now, fueling during the race will also be necessary for you to perform your best.
Assuming you’ve had a pre-race breakfast, taking in your first fuel about 45 minutes into the race is a good strategy, to get just a bit ahead of your glycogen stores. This is a personal preference and you’ll need to practice your fueling strategy during training runs to see what makes you feel your best.
A good rule is to fuel every 45 minutes or so, but if that feels like too much or too little, you can adjust the timing.
Which types of fuel do you recommend? What should we look for in a fuel?
Personally, I like fuel that’s “real food” or from natural, organic sources. There are so many products on the market and it does take some experimentation to figure out what works best for your digestion, personal tastes, and energy.
Even though I eat paleo, I do think running fuel can be an exception if you find a gel that works really well for you – you are burning through this immediately during the run anyway and it won’t have any bearing on your health overall.
Prior to paleo, I stuck will Vanilla flavored Hammer gels but they taste way too sweet to me now!
Is it possible to run a half without fueling?
Yes, it is, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to perform at your peak. After we burn through our glycogen, our body will turn to fat stores for energy.
When we run on fat and aren’t accustomed to it, we can run but our speed is limited and often we feel like we’ve “hit the wall” or just can’t muster up energy to hit our regular paces.
There are ways to train our bodies to run faster using fat for energy (glycogen depletion training), but it isn’t recommended for beginning runners, and, even after doing this type of training, you’ll likely still want the boost you get from fuel to perform your best.
How long before a race should we test out fuel? Should we only try it during our long runs?
If you’re doing long runs weekly for 12 weeks or so leading up to the race, you should start practicing your fueling strategy as a regular part of your long run, even if it’s not up to the peak distance.
There’s no need to practice fueling for shorter runs since it won’t give you a good indication of how you’ll feel running longer distance. However, you can practice fueling during tempo runs or speed sessions to see what works for your system when running at race pace.
Can we quickly address water stops and Gatorade?
Do I grab the Gatorade even if I didn’t practice drinking Gatorade during my training runs?
If you didn’t train with Gatorade, I wouldn’t advise drinking it during a race.
There are usually so many water stops. Do I need to take water from them all?
This is really a personal preference and something you have to figure out with your training since so many factors (weather!) impact how much you need to actually hydrate during the race.
I do recommend though that you try to take in some water with your fuel as it helps to dilute the sugar a bit and keep you hydrated.
Read more from Michele and learn more about her online running coach services here.
Are you a water grabber or Gatorade grabber?
Favorite gel/race fuel at the moment?
Have more questions for Michele? Ask in the comments!