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I am training for my first marathon and I have been trying to figure out my fueling strategy. I have run several half marathons but never had anything on the course besides sports drinks. I have read that you shouldn't mix sports drinks and gels. Does this mean I have to drink water at every aid station or can I drink sports drinks at some and then switch to water when I am going to eat my gels?
Thanks for your help!
Training for Disney Marathon Jan 2011
First of all, let me start by saying that everyone is different. Therefore, how different fueling methods affect different people varies.
I have run 4 marathons, and every time, I've used Powerade sports drink and gels over the course of the race. HOWEVER, at any given aid station, I either drink sports drink or eat a gel and chase it with water. I never chase a gel with sports drink, as I've heard that's just too much sugar and is usually hard on the stomach. Generally, I drink Powerade every 2 miles, except at miles 6, 10, 14, 18 and 22 I take water and a gel. I use Powerade Strawberry Banana energy gels. Honestly, I haven't done much research on gels - the Powerade Strawberry Banana was what Kroger had when I looked for gels, and since they gave me no problems, I've stuck with them. I've used Jelly Belly Sports Beans before as well, and while some people swear by them, I'm not a fan of trying to chew a bunch of jelly beans while running.
I also take fast food salt packets with me in a little ziplock bag (so that they don't get wet) and drop one of those about every 6 or 8 miles. I do this because in my second marathon, I developed horrible cramps in my calves, followed by my quads, beginning around mile 16 and getting progressively worse. This could have been because:
a) I took ibuprofen before the race (I had never done that before) - NSAIDs can mess with your body's processing of electrolytes,
b) because I simply didn't take in enough sodium,
c) because I simply ran faster than I should have for the first 16 miles, or
d) a combination of these factors
Now I, a) don't take NSAIDs before a race, b) get a lot of salt - no sports drink replaces all of the salt that you sweat out, it would be undrinkable if it did, and c) set more realistic pace goals. Haven't cramped since.
Most importantly, experiment with your fueling strategy on your long runs to see what works for you before race day. Hope all my babble is helpful.
Thank you so much for your reply! I do intend to practice different strategies to see what works for me. I have tried sports beans but I'm with you -- its annoying to chew little jelly beans while running. I am going to try a gel on my next long run. I will carry water and gatorade in my sports belt and try to find the right combination.
That's exactly what I do on my long runs. Anything over 12 miles, I fill some of my bottles with Powerade and some with water. My belt holds 4 bottles, so for example, this weekend, for my 20-miler, I'll start off with 3 bottles of Powerade and 1 of water. If it's warm (65-70+) when I start, I'll drink at miles 2 (Powerade), 4 (Powerade), 6 (gel+water) and 8 (Powerade). Then I'll refill before mile 10, alternating Powerade and gel+water for the rest of the run. If it's cooler than that, I'll try to go 3 (or even 4 in the winter) miles between drinks, but I'll listen to my body, and if I seem to still be thirsty, I'll drop to 2 miles between drinks.
Also, I weigh myself before and after I run to see how much weight I lost. I weigh in the 160s, so if I lose 3 or more pounds I know I didn't drink enough. 1-2 pounds and I'm not bothered.
I swear by Hammer's Perpetuem in any workout over 2 hours. It has carbs, electrolytes and a little protein. My stomach is totally intolerant of food/liquid while running, yet i am able to drink this. The difference in my performance is amazing when I drink this vs just Gatorade or Heed plus gels - I can go much farther and faster without fatigue.