Last week we talked about how to pick the right fuel for your marathon training and racing. The take home message there was; it is very individual, try out a bunch different things and go with what you like the taste of and what agrees most with your stomach.
This week, let’s talk about how much of that fuel you should be taking in, whether it be gels, sports drink, bloks, stingers, straight up honey packets (as one person on Instagram suggested). Similar to picking you’re fuel, you need to practice, practice, practice to dial in the amount of stuff you need to take in.
We do suggest some minimums that you should aim for, and these are based on the grams of carbohydrate in your fuel. Most gels and sports drinks will give you that info on the packaging. What you want to focus on is consuming at least 30grams of CHO per hour. Most gels have between 20-25 grams of CHO in them. There is a good listing of the nutrition facts for a lot of different fuelling products HERE. But you’re unlikely to suck out every gram of gel as you franticly stuff it in your face mid race. So subtract 5grams from that and you have what you’re getting in with each gel. So to hit 30grams you need to be taking down roughly 1 and 1/3rd gel per hour. Or 1 gel every 40minutes. That is at MINIMUM.
(If you’re using sports drink instead, you can change up the concentration of the drink to get in more CHO. Instead of adding the standard 1 scoop of powdered drink per XmL of water, add 1.5 scoops. See where that lands you.)
What’s the maximum? There isn’t one. It’s when your GI system shuts down! When is that? You’ll only find out by practicing and pushing your limits. Practice on your long runs or long tempos. Those runs will best simulate the blood flow through your gut that you’ll be experiencing on race day. We don’t know of anyone that can push much beyond 60 grams of carbs per hour.
You can mix up your fuels too. Sometimes taking the sports drink on offer on the course, other times taking gels or bloks you carry with you. Variety is good, as long as you know your stomach can handle it. Dylan’s best formula was a 1.5x concentration of PowerBar Endurance drink at one aid station and a Powerbar Gel at the next station. But what worked for him isn’t necessarily going to work for you. So get out there, practice, practice, practice and get things dialled in.