Energy Gels + Long Runs- When to Start


So you have been running for some time now and you are looking to increase your milage. You have heard about energy gels and chews and needing to refuel on long runs. So when exactly do you need to start refueling on a long run and why? Keep reading to find out!

Your Body Needs Energy

With long bouts of exercise, intaking small amounts of carbs can help maintain energy levels. The last thing you want occurring is to feel like you hit a wall and do not have the energy to continue on. Your body will utilize carbs and fats as the main sources of energy. The greater the intensity of your workout, the more your body will rely on carbs for energy. Even at low intensity and long duration runs your body needs more fuel to burn.

Here is the thing. We all have heard about carb loading before a race or a long run. You can pig out on carbs and go absolutely crazy. The truth is our muscles can only store a certain amount of carbs. Typically we can store about 90 minutes worth of muscle glycogen when running at a half marathon pace and about 2 hours when running at a marathon pace. 

Gels/chews are designed to replenish the carbohydrates that are used during a run/exercise.

When Should You Take Gels?

Every runner absorbs and processes carbs at a different rate. This is due to how efficient your stomach is at digesting carbs and the type you are consuming. When you’re running hard and long, your body pumps the majority of your blood away from the digestive track to help give your legs more blood (and therefore more oxygen) to get through the race. This is why it is not uncommon to see runners throw up or feel sick after intaking fluids or gels. Because your digestive system is either shut down or extremely slow moving at the time because your bodies overall focus is on something else.

Therefore if you have not used gels or chews NEVERRRRRRRRRRRRR try them for the first time on race day. Make sure your body takes well to them and can digest them. For me, gels give my stomach horrible issues but the jelly beans work wonders for me. Better to know earlier than later.

Somewhere between 45-60 minutes into your race/long run should you start using a supplement for an energy source. I would suggest having a breakfast that has simple sugars and carbs to get you started (bagel with peanut butter, oatmeal, energy bar) and start using your supplement during the race. 45-60 minutes allows for your body to still have energy left to use and you are just adding to it. This way your energy source is not completely depleted and you are trying to quickly raise it while feeling fatigued and running.

Try taking 2 gels every 45-60 minutes after your initial intake. You don’t want too much simple sugar in your system at once (you’ll get a stomach ache with too much sugar). You want to space them out enough to utilize them as an energy source. And remember, if you practice this on longer runs, you can train your stomach and digestive system to get used to this and therefore have it kick in during certain times when running.

ALWAYS take gels/beans/chews with water

Never take then alone and NEVER with Gatorade.

Without water, energy gels will take longer to digest and enter the blood stream to use as an energy source. If you take an energy gel with a sports drink, you run the risk of ingesting too much simple sugar at once.And that means intaking close to 60 grams of sugar-gross.

Don’t like gels or chews?

Try raisins, dried apricots, pretzels, banana, or fig bars. Generally if it is easy to carry go for it. I have a flipbelt I store my jelly beans in so they are easily accessible. This may not be the case for a banana but you can certainly find a way to stick a bag full of raisins, dried fruit, pretzels or bars into a belt!


Happy running!









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