As we find ourselves at the start of the race season here in Australia, it’s time to talk about the importance of practicing your race fuelling. Developing a strategic fuelling plan for your marathon or ultramarathon is an essential part of running your best race. While sub-optimal fuelling might prove adequate for shorter, slower training runs, it can be the one factor which turns a great run into a disaster from the 30km point of the race.
Runners should aim to consume at least 50g, and as much as 90g, of carbohydrate per hour during their race, and fuelling should commence within the first hour (usually at around the 7km mark) whether the athlete feels like it is required or not.
Carbohydrate intake can be maximised through:
- Using multiple carbohydrate sources including fluids, gels, bars, chews and even non-sports specific foods.
- “Training your gut” to accept more carbohydrate by practicing fuelling on all training runs longer than 20km.
- Scheduling your carbohydrate intake so that it is adequate and not forgotten.
It is important to be aware of exactly home many grams of carbohydrate are in the fuel sources you choose. While sports specific products may not taste the best, they have been specially formulated to allow athletes to consume as much carbohydrate as possible in the smallest volume of food, therefore helping to minimise the discomfort caused by running on a full stomach.
Trialling your fuelling products during your training is essential. Both sports fuels and every day foods can cause digestive discomfort, nausea or the need to run to the bathroom and you need to determine which products disagree with you on your training runs, not during your race. No single fuelling product will agree with all individuals, and each person will have their own preferences for texture and flavour so choose a variety of gels, chews, and fluids to try and see which you like best. Also keep in mind that fuelling under race conditions can be very different to fuelling in a training run, for this reason consider scheduling a shorter race, such as a half marathon, into your training program to practice your fuelling under race conditions.
If possible, find out what products are available at the aid stations during your race and use those in your training. For example, this year the Gold Coast Marathon provides Endura pineapple flavoured rehydration energy fuel along the course, along with Endura gels at around the 30km mark, so if this is a race you are doing consider buying and using these products as part of your training.
Don’t forget to consider if you want to consume any ergogenic supplements before or during your race. Both caffeine and beetroot juice have measureable benefits on endurance performance. Beetroot supplements can be purchased as a drink, and caffeine can be taken in liquid, gel, chew, or tablet form. Again, be sure to trial these before your race, multiple times if possible.
When it comes to planning your fuelling strategy, be very specific. Decide whether you will schedule your fuel intake by distance or time. Write your plan out, including the brands, flavours and timing of your foods. If race nutrition is not your strong point, we can help you come up with a fuelling strategy that will keep your running strong right to the finish line. Food to Fit can also provide you with a variety of fuelling options for you to try – Simply get in touch!