Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gu or Not To Gu, That is the Question

For this round of race training, I have quite a few runners new to training for the half-marathon and
full-marathon distance. I love working with newbies to distance racing. They have so many questions and are so eager to learn.

One question that has surfaced over and over during this training cycle is, "What about GU? Should I be using sports gels? When should I use them?

Each of my runners gets a training packet that's several pages long and in that packet is information on and "rules of thumb" for pre-run fueling, during-the-run fueling, and post-run fueling. But like most of my race trainers, the sections of the packet that gets viewed the most are pages 1 and 2--the training schedule and the workout descriptions and their personal training paces. LOL!

I think another reason these questions keep surfacing is that they keep hearing other information from their running friends...."Well, I use this." "I take that." "I use Gu this many times during a run." "Oh, don't use that." "You don't need this." "You should do this."

And you know the problem isn't that these well-meaning runners are giving them bad information. The problem, is that they are giving these new distance runners solutions for what works for themselves. With so much and such diverse information, my new-to-distance runners become overwhelmed and not sure what to do. Also, as a new distance runner, and well, like most anybody, they want "the" definitive answer. There in lies the problem. There isn't one answer.

Remember, up in paragraph two of this post, I mentioned that in each runner's training packet, I provide them with "rules of thumb" for fueling? Well, that's really as specific as it can be. Rules-of-thumb, guidelines, a set of parameters. Each runner, then has to use the 14-18 weeks of training to figure out  (based on those parameters) what works best for them.

I had one runner that in the marathon race, she used a gel about every 10 minutes. I would not recommend that to anyone, because for most that would cause stomach distress. But for her, it worked. She determined that for herself through her training. Whether it was more of a mental security factor or a physical need, I'm not sure, but nonetheless, it worked for her.

So, unfortunately I can't tell my newbies, "Here do exactly this." But, what I can provide them with the following parameters.

During training, eat a well balanced diet of approximately 45-65% high quality complex carbohydrates, 20-35 % polyunsaturated fat/monounsaturated fat (and yes a little bit of saturated fat), and 10-35% protein (from lean meats and plant sources).

Your body can store about 2000 calories of glycogen (fuel) in the muscle. This is your primary source of fuel on the run. If on a regulare basis, you're eating a good balance of the macro-nutrients listed above (Carbs, Fats, Protein), then you should be keeping your glycogen stores in good check.

Sports Gels, chomps, blocks, chews, etc. are designed to help you keep from completely depleting your glycogen stores during longer runs. If you're running an hour or less, you really don't need sports gels and the like. If you're running 1.5 hours or more, then it's a good idea to start supplementing with an additional fuel source.

Most fueling supplement companies suggest taking their product every 45-60 mins, but again that's just a recommendation. I personally take one about every 5 miles, but again, that's what works for me. The true key is listening to your body and getting into a routine of taking such supplements in a regimen that provides you with fuel before you feel like you need it. If you wait until you are fatiguing to take something, then more than likely it won't get into your system in time for it to really do you any good.

The other thing to keep in mind is that gels, chomps, chews, bars, etc. are not the end-all source of fuel. I began running marathons back in 1997. Back then then only fuel I know of that was available (at least where I was in NC) was PowerBar. It basically was a nasty leather bar that you chewed on and chewed on and chewed on. I think I'm still chewing on the first bar I took back in 1997. LOL! Not too long afterward, PowerBar started making PowerGel. But before that, about the only thing available was Gatorade for fuel.

Somehow runners prior to the 2000s were able to run distance without these handy little packets. That's the key word....Handy. Usually a serving of fuel is about 100 calories, These products are convenient, easy to carry, 100 calorie packets of fuel. It takes out the guess work. Simply open and eat.  However, you can use real food too and it be just as effective. Here again, you have to experiment with what works for you. I have one runner who eats dates on the run. Another eats an oatmeal cookie (kind of like a ginger snap). Another runner carries a little baggie of pretzels. And still another makes little pbj sandwiches for long runs. They all have around the same number of calories comprised mostly of simple carbs for quick and easy digestion.

Gatorade and similar sports drinks provide basically the same thing as sports gels. So when taking a sports gel or your homemade energy food source, it's best to wash it down with water not sports drink? Why? Well, since the both provide essentially the same thing, you're basically getting a double whammy of carbohydrates. For some this can cause stomach distress. So rather than risk that, wash down your energy foods with water and save the sports drink for a hydration stop when you're not taking a supplement.

So, again, many are probably still frustrated that I haven't provided "The definitive Fueling Solution," but you have some guidelines. Use your training time to experiment and discover what works for you. Each runner is unique and you have to discover your own tricks of the trade.

No comments: