I had a ton of fun talking to Kari at The Running Lifestyle Show this week. The best part of her show is how real it is. Like, this week, we discussed a total running faux-pas: How to fuel for a marathon when you haven’t really had the chance to practice fueling. Because, at The Running Lifestyle Show, its all about real life situations that us runners get our badselves into now & then, ya know what I’m sayin’?
In a perfect world, practicing fueling during a run is just as important as practicing the mileage. Your body is a dynamic and unique being. The way I fuel will be different than what your body can tolerate, especially in the stress of later miles of a marathon. The way you fuel for a 5k, a 10 k, a half marathon– they all differ from the strategies you may need to implement during the marathon. Think about it, the extreme stress of a marathon means your body is not prioritizing blood flow to your digestive system but instead to your legs which are important during the “flight or fight” activation of your sympathetic nervous system. For that reason, many runners find they cannot tolerate their usual fare without experiencing digestive distress. Fibrous veggies, wheat/whole grain products, fibrous fruits, large quantities of dietary fat, or dairy are common culprits in digestive distress pre-run.
What’s the perfect mid-marathon fuel? Well, that depends on you as a unique individual, and why I encourage always practicing your fueling technique pre-race. If you usually eat large quantities of starch throughout the day (>50% of calories from carb), you probably will do best fueling your race with carb-ier sources such as Honey Stinger gels, dried blueberries, or grapes. If you usually consume 30-40% of calories from dietary fat, and rely on nonstarchy veggies mostly for carbohydrate, then you may be more of a “fat burner” and benefit from using olives, coconut oil, or nuts/nut butter packets to fuel your race. Coconut is particularly awesome for fat burners because coconut is comprised of a special type of saturated fat called “medium chain triglyceride.” This fatty acid bypasses the lymph system and is instead absorbed directly into the blood stream, meaning it can immediately be used as energy (sort of like sugar!). Pretty coolio.
Kari, however, has been playing around with using both fat & sugar as fuel source during her marathon training, and seems to be tolerating it well (she has chosen honey roasted macadamia nuts for fuel). Since her body is using up the sugar very quickly, but is probably able to efficiently use the fat for fuel as well, Kari seems to be doing A-Okay on this marathon training blend.
The other facet of training fuel which I have told all ya’ll before about are EnergyBits. These little gems are REAL FOOD tablets of spirulina algae. Since algae is super duper high in protein, it helps stabilize blood sugar, and has really helped me mitigate symptoms of hypoglycemia while running. Their antioxidant content protects against free radical production which is naturally generated during running, and their amazing nitric oxide content has been associated with improved oxygen delivery to your tired muscles. Pretty much: runner heaven. I take 15-30 bits before a <13 mile run totally fasted and feel great (but I am also pretty fat adapted, and do this when I am more concerned about endurance and fat loss than for performance). When doing distances >13 miles, I’ll add 15 bits at a time with a Honey Stinger Gel. For me, in later mileage, I need sugar to perform best. That’s just me, and it doesn’t make a lotta sense, but hey- that’s why practice is key. And I learned that through lots of experimentation.
Want your own EnergyBits? Use the code “RDFUEL” at checkout for 25% off (you’re welcome).
Kari is bein’ a little wild child and running her marathon without practicing a fueling strategy… so we will all have to wait with bated breath and see what happens. Since she’s an incredibly powerful & positive runner, I bet she’ll do amazing– also, she’s doing this race for the EXPERIENCE, not for the PR, so she’s got that on her side. :)