We've paid our entry fee, trained hard and bought all the gear but the thing that often lets people down is fuelling correctly on race day. Whether you are looking to smash out a PB, pushing your body to its limits or are just looking to get round and survive. Taking on board the right fuel, at the right time can not only help you have a better run but it can also help you feel better during and after your big race.
Our guide is focussed around our products, a tried and tested system that is used by European and World class athletes. They are not 'sponsored' athletes receiving free products, these are some of the world's best who purchase the system to get the very best out of their races so please read on and if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.
In the build up
Eat as you normally would (avoiding processed and fast food), ideally balanced meals based around fresh food you prepare yourself and get into the habit of sipping water throughout the day to ensure you are fully hydrated.
In the days prior to a Marathon it’s essential to ensure you’re system is as prepared as it can be, so our users often drink a Night Fuel in the evenings prior to an event as this helps to feed and nourish your muscles while you’re asleep and in your most restorative state.
Sipping an energy fuel the day before can also help with this process and if you have travelled, especially abroad then the vitamins and minerals in the energy fuel help to replenish your fatigued state. If you fly, drink plenty of water while you’re in the air to avoid dehydration.
Morning of the event
Avoid a ‘heavy on the stomach’ and large breakfast - we mean fry ups, too large a bowl of porridge etc. Having too much in your stomach is not going to help you when you start to run. Go for a calorific but easy to absorb breakfast like Morning Fuel and supplement this with a banana and/or some seeds. Or simply have a FeelGoodBar as they are energy dense yet light on the stomach and are very nutritious.
Sip an energy fuel just after breakfast and on the way to the start line too. The alternative is to have a Sports Jelly 15 minutes before the run starts.
Depending on the timing of the race and the time you need to be in your starting area you may find there is there is a considerable time between breakfast and the start time so nibbling on a bar or having a Sports Jelly ready would be a very convenient way to top up easy on the stomach pre-race energy.
From the off
Preparation is key. Little and often will keep you going all day so you must practice this in training. Get used to a jelly every 30 to 45 mins to an hour on some of your long training runs. However you don’t wait 30 minutes to have your first energy source, we suggest having a sip of your jelly 15-20 minutes from the off and then every 5 to 10 minutes another mouthful until that jelly is finished, the alternative is to have the whole jelly in one.
We are all so different
Everyone is different and some people are able to take on less fuel, others more, it all depends on your metabolism, fitness levels and the effort you are putting in so practice is key. You hear so many stories of people saying “I was on for a PB”... no, a PB is a PB, you are never on for a PB, you either do one or not. It may have been an injury that stopped you but more often than not, it is a fuelling issue where you are running well but you simply don’t replenish your energy for that pace and the wheels come off, you hit the wall and the dreaded bonk. It’s a simple equation, the faster you run, the quicker you burn your fuel. Drive fast in a car and the petrol gauge drops before your eyes, the same happens in your muscles.
However while we are all so different we do share the common theme that carbs = fuel and in a half marathon, good carbs are key. While traditional sports gels and shot bloks are products that some people feel they have to use but don’t look forward to taking, almost like a necessary evil, there is an alternative. We say necessary evil as one of the issues you have with these is the need for your digestive system to require more fluid and blood flow from your working muscles and vital organs to metabolise them and it’s often for this reason you can get feelings of nausea and also drops in energy after the initial spike.
Ideally you want a fast acting, yet sustained energy release that is easy on your digestive system and that’s why we developed the drinkable Sports Jelly. As soon as it enters your mouth it starts to melt, absorbing carbohydrates through your gums. We use a special pectin that encapsulates the carbohydrate to ensure it transports through the stomach easily so you look forward to each refreshing Sports Jelly. With Chrohns and IBS sufferers successfully using the Sports Jellies you can be confident that they are very different to a traditional sports gel and you have no issues with however many you would need to consume.
In the Race
As we said from the start of your race you should be taking on board fuel from 15-20 minutes in, don’t wait too long or you are already chasing glycogen (energy) depletion. You also have to bear in mind that the sports jelly in real terms takes time to absorb through your system and actually deliver the energy. However as soon as you take on board a jelly, the receptors in your brain tell your working muscles that energy is on it’s way, your energy system reacts and that is why you can often feel a boost in energy almost immediately. This is where you will have issues if you rely on jelly babies or sweets as the brain says, “Fantastic, here comes some energy to the muscles” but in real terms the amount if energy is burnt up in minutes and you are then on a roller coaster of highs and lows as you chase the sugar train. Sweets will also leave you feeling very thirsty as your body uses fluid to absorb them so all in all it is much better to avoid them unless you have no choice at all and are near the very end of the race.
"In the past I’ve tried loads of different gels during half marathons and marathons but always struggled to find the right one.Not any more after trying the Mountain Fuel Sports Jelly. I first used them in the Keswick Mountain festival 50km and found them easy to consume with no sickly after taste like other gels.I’ve since used them in road half marathons and during my training for York Marathon and found they give me a great energy boost.Along with Mountain Fuel Raw Energy Fuel they are a winning combination and I don’t need to worry what to take with me on training runs and races anymore." Julie Briscoe, working mother and Team GB athlete
One of the key things to remember is that we have energy stored in our muscles, we can also draw on fat stores for energy so in one sense anyone could go out and run/walk a half marathon and beyond and take on no fuel. However, you are not going to achieve your best performance nor enjoy it as much and in the following days your muscles will be more achey. The advice we provide is very much based around enjoying your run and maximising your performance on a personal level. However we are all very different, some are lucky enough to have great metabolisms and can rely on less fast acting external carbohydrates (energy) and some need a lot more as they are mentally prepared to push their bodies beyond the limits of what many of us feel comfortable.
Fuelling early is better than fuelling late… Depending on pace, expected exertion etc you will know how often you will need to take on board a jelly. For example if I’m running a 7 minute mile pace for my race and pushing for a PB I’m going to have the following strategy which requires jellies only and does not require additional water unless it’s a hot day;
Mile 2: Sports Jelly
Mile 6: Sports Jelly
Mile 10: Sports Jelly
However if I'm building fitness, new to running and possible one of my first races then I'd suggest the following as I'm simply going to take longer but I'm not necessarily going to burn through my energy as fast as the above example;
Mile 2: Sports Jelly
Mile 5: Sports Jelly
Mile 8: Sports Jelly
Mile 11: Sports Jelly
I’d personally take each jelly in two to three mouthfuls over a 15 minute period and carry as the jelly will not drip out and is not sticky like a traditional sports gel. You can have in one go if you feel it more convenient but I prefer the drip feed over time.
The final Sports Jelly, I’d consider having as the Cola with Caffeine as the 30mg of caffeine. Having a small caffeine boost around these times is enough to stimulate your brain and suppress your fatigue hormones but not overly stimulate your system which can have an adverse impact.
There’s lots of info out there about maximising carbohydrate intake up to 90g per hour but you have to have a well trained stomach and be vigilant as to intake, as too much fructose for example will end in a gurgling pit of misery in your stomach. Your digestive and energy system also has to work hard to deliver energy in this way and when you’re working muscles and organs are crying out for blood flow etc your body can simply start to shut your stomach down and that is when nausea, sickness and diarrhea can ruin your race.
We suggest that you aim for around 20g to 60g an hour in race fuel (as said earlier this depends on your metabolism, fitness level, exertion etc), on occasion you will go a little over and other times under. Fitness levels, styles of training and your own personal metabolism dictates how much fuel you require. Ultimately, you only discover this in your longer hard training sessions and/or race day. Ego’s and old fashioned stigma occasionally blights peoples runs as some folk like to say you can run a marathon fresh air or half a jelly baby but the reality is you do need some level of fuel, it’s just some folk use more and some folk use less. Do what’s right for you.
Little and often of each, don't overload the stomach, just keep it ticking over and replenishing glycogen. Remember there is an internal battle for blood flow when you exercise, and particularly over longer distances and the weather conditions can also have a big impact on this. Your working muscles and vital organs are first in line for blood flow so you need to make it easy for your stomach as it is last in line and will be shut down if you eat or drink foods or fluids that require the body to divert too much blood.
The Energy Fuel has a balanced carbohydrate mix to ensure you rapidly replenish glycogen while delivering a sustained energy release. Added minerals (electrolytes), vitamins and amino acid ensures that your muscles are replenished and fuelled for all types of effort and distance.
The FeelGoodBars are energy dense yet very light on the stomach (used by Crohn's and IBS users) and incredibly easy to eat as they literally melt in your mouth without the need to excessively chew or leaving a stodgy paste that’s impossible to swallow. The fact that they are gluten free also helps reduce stress on the stomach.
The Sports Jellies are refreshing, easy on the stomach (again used by Crohn's and IBS users) and contain electrolytes and unlike other gels you can rely on these to deliver your fast acting energy without worry of stomach issues or the need to drink lots of fluid with them, even on a hot day. You can also exclusively fuel on these if you find it hard on take on solids.
Yes you may want to collapse, chat to other competitors, loved ones etc but getting a Recovery Fuel in at this point will not only help you feel better sooner, it will also help offset DOM’s the next day and that painful walk down the stairs may just be that little bit easier!
You can also consider a Night Fuel that evening too, will help you sleep and replenish your tired muscles while you’re asleep.
Good luck and have fun and let us know how you get on with your next event.
There are also more sports nutrition plans for a variety of activities that you could also find useful.