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Should energy gels be used while training? (Read 1231 times)

    Yesterday I took an energy gel on my long run (11.5 mi) for the first time. I did this because last week, when I ran 10 mi for the first time, I really felt wiped out at the end. So I thought I'd try an energy gel on my next long run to see if that would help out. I tried a ClifShot - it didn't taste very good to say the least, but it did seem to help. But now I'm wondering if it is a good idea to use them - at least during traning - because I had read in Galloway's book that after one runs for more than 30 min, the body begins to rely more on fat for energy than on carbs, and that you need to train you body to be able to do this. So am I short-circuiting this by taking a carb energy gel midway through my long runs? I can see how you might want to do this during a race to try to get your best time, but I wonder if I should avoid this during training to make sure that my body gets better at using fat as an energy source. Does anyone have thoughts on this?


    Prophet!

      i had the same question while i was training for my first marathon... Click here for the link for that thread.. Now I run up to 12 miles with just water and a good breakfast before run..and I feel fine..I'm gonna try the longer runs (13 - 16m) without them and see. I'd say fuel away if you're in the middle of a training program and it helps you finish the long runs, it'll help with faster recovery and get your body used to the gels for the race. As for me since i'm in base building phase, i'd like to see how far i can take it without refueling and get used to running while tired and low in fuel.
        Nothing wrong with having an energy gel during your long run. I used to have an energy gel on anything longer than 5 miles. Now I only use them on runs that are 13 miles (one gel) or longer.

        Your toughness is made up of equal parts persistence and experience. You don't so much outrun your opponents as outlast and outsmart them, and the toughest opponent of all is the one inside your head." - Joe Henderson

          Out HM training group trains with the drink or gel that is used in the race we are training for. Gel for Louisville KY and Gatoraid for Indy

          To paraphrase an old poster: Today is the first day of the rest of your training. It doesn’t matter where you started or how far you’ve come. Today is the day. Your training didn’t start 6 weeks ago. Your training started the last time you hit the road. John “the Penguin” Bingham Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you're standing outside the fire


          A Dance with Monkeys

            Short Answer: Yes. You will need calories on the course if you are going to succeed in a marathon. and You should do nothing new on marathon day that you have not done many times in training. therefore You should take in energy gels or some other form of calories while training. Long answer: Until you reach 80% or more of your effort, your stored lipids and fats provide you quite a bit of energy and it is not as important to consume calories while you run. At 80% or more, you are buring quite a bit of glycogen and it is far more important to keep your caloric intake going during a long run. You glycogen alone is enough to sustain you for at least 10-15 miles at an effort > 80% of your max, provided you are adequately carb loaded. This text assumes you are running using glycogen as 100% of your energy source. In reality, you use other sources, such as fats. The lower your %maximal effort, the lower a portion of your total calories come from glycogen. When you run out of glycogen, you hit the wall. *** The human body can contain a maximum of about 2000 calories of stored glycogen. Glycogen is the energy source we use when we run. Your body stores glycogen in the muscles and in the liver. Most of us burn about 110-140 calories for every mile we run, which means we will run out of glycogen after about 16-18 miles if we are burning only glycogen (we are not, see below). After you run out of glycogen, your body will force you to stop as you transition from burning glycogen to burning protein (i.e., your leg muscles). Once your body has transitioned, you can run again. In part, it is because of this protein burning that your legs hurt for days afterwards and you require recovery before you can run again (that and the lactic acid buildup, etc). It is for this reason that many runners can go 16 miles casually, but require planning and extra effort to go beyond 20. Taking in calories during the run can extend this by preserving some of the (liver) glycogen. A packet of gu-stuff has about 100 calories (worth just under a mile of running) and a 4 ounce cup of gatorade has about 8 calories (about 50-100 yards). Even if you take in 8-10 gu packets during your run (yech, blech, eeeww, uch) you will not necessarily absorb all those calories efficiently, so you still are likely to run out. In general, the more you run in your life, the more efficient you get at burning glycogen. People who have run distance for years, and who put in 40-60+ miles per week use and replace glycogen more efficiently than folks who have only been running for a short time and who can only put in 20-30 miles per week or less. The more efficiently you burn glycogen, the less quickly you use it up, and the further you can go. Your body simply cannot store more than about 2000. Once you got to 2000 (or whatever YOUR body can hold) you will not store more. You burn glycogen all the time, whether running or not. If you were to sit at your desk all day doing nothing but surfing this board, you would still burn about 1500-1800 calories / 24 hours (although you probably burn a little more than that just by having muscles trained to run a marathon), and so all you are doing is repleting that when you carb load up every next day. When you wake up the morning of a long run or a marathon, you have already lost several hundred calories from your glycogen stores just by breathing and sleeping the night before. More if you were nervous. That is why your breakfast really counts as your carb loading unless done right before the run. If you finished dinner and went to sleep with 2000 calories in the tank, by time you woke up the next morning, you were probably down to 1400-1600. If you ate the oatmeal at 5am, you were probably close to 2000 by time the gun fired, but then you only took in about 600 during the run. If you ate after 6am, then you probably had a store of about 1500 calories when the gun fired, and the oatmeal would count in the 950. See Tim Noakes, the Lore of Running. Noakes has a long discussion in his book about energy stores and how we use them. I forget the exact chapter. Among other things, he writes: "The marathon is less a physical event than a spiritual encounter. In infinite wisdom, God built into us a 32 km racing limit, a limit imposed by inadequate sources of the marathoner's prime racing fuel -- carbohydrates. But we, in our infinite wisdom, decreed that the standard marathon be raced over 42 km...So it is in that physical no-man's-land, which begins after the 32 km mark, that is the irresistible appeal of the marathon lies. It is at this stage, as the limits to human running endurance are approached, that the marathon ceases to be a physical event...It is there that you learn something about yourself and your view of life." (Noakes, Lore of Running, p596) ...and... Your body contains about 2000 kcal of energy stored as glycogen and another 4000 kcal for EVERY pound of fat you have (e.g., a 150 lb person with just a 5% body fat will still have almost 8 lbs of fat, worth about 32 000 kcal!). Energy expenditure while running is a function of your weight, and to a lesser extent the grade of the road, and to a far far lesser extent to your pace. So an 8 m/m runner is burning energy at about the same rate PER MILE as a 12 m/m runner with the same weight while they are both running. A 150 lb runner will burn approximately 120 kcal per mile run. Your body uses two fuel sources to run. One is glycogen. Glycogen is the primary energy source used for fight or flight type activites, which means it is the primary energy source used when running. When you run above 80-90% of your maximum effort (or VO2max, or Maximum HR), your body is burning almost entirely glycogen to fuel the effort. Below that, your body starts using the other energy source, which is fat. An innacurate but useful rule of thumb is that your body fuels its effort using glycogen as a percentage of total calories used that is equivalent to your perent effort. So if you are running at a 70% effort, about 70% of the kcal you are using to fuel the effort are coming from glycogen, and the rest come from fat. The reason you bonk is that you run out of glycogen. If you weigh 150 lbs and are running 80% effort, you will use about 2000 kcal worth of glycogen in about 21 miles. If you are running at a 70% effort, it will take you 24 miles to use 2000 kcal worth of glycogen. So why do you bonk at mile 18? Well, even if you carb load absolutely perfectly (and most of us do not), when you finish loading, you then go to bed and sleep. When you wake up marathon morning, your body has used up as much as 25-30% of your glycogen just keeping you alive overnight. And the next morning, the little bit you are able to force down into your stomach, well it does not ever get a chance to be stored as glycogen. Calories on the course? Sure, there are two general options. There are sports drinks, which deliver 4-10 kcal per cup, depending on how dilute the mix and how full the cup. And there are gu or jelly bean packets, which deliver about 100 kcal per packet, provided you can get every last bit. It takes about 1 1/2 packets of gu or about 15 cups of sports drink to fuel each additional mile (i.e., spare your body's need to burn glycogen) When you bonk, you slow down. When you slow down, your body preferentially burns fat. That is how you can finish, even after bonking. So, putting it all together, assuming that you weigh 150 lbs (thereby burning 120 kcal per mile), that you are running your marathon at 75% effort, and that you are able to store 2000 kcal, but that you also slept during the night and burned 25% of those calories, but that you take enough gu and sports drink to get 2 extra miles: ((2 000 kcal glycogen * (1 - 0.25 burned last night)) / (120 kcal per mile * .75 effort)) + 2 miles from carbs on the course = 18.6 miles You will bonk at mile 18.6. Or so. It is never quite this predictable. You can also attenuate this by long-term training (which increases your total body glycogen storage abilities and improves your fat burning at high exertion over time).


            Needs more cowbell!

              I tried a ClifShot - it didn't taste very good to say the least, but it did seem to help.
              I tried the Clif Shot Bloks things in several flavors...nasty. I MUCH prefer GU and it doesn't make me worry about choking. I like regular ol' Jelly Belly beans, too. I used those for my first HM. Smile k

              I shoot pretty things! ~

              '14 Goals:

              • 6 duathlons (1 Olympic distance)

              • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

                You should do nothing new on marathon day that you have not done many times in training.
                So, so true. I ran the Va Beach Rock and Roll Half last September (great race, BTW), and they served AMINO VITAL (a sport drink, if you can call it that) on the course. Never had it before, but I don't do fuel belts during race, so I drank it on the course. BIG. MISTAKE. It was awful, but since it was 75* I needed something more than water so I drank it on the course ... and promptly threw it up at the finish (cool finish photo, though!) Moral: if you are going to wear it or drink it or eat it during a race, wear it or eat it or drink it on a couple long runs!
                2009: BQ?
                  Even if it provides absolutely no physical benefit, I still say go ahead and use the gels if you want to. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking. If your mind thinks the gel will give you a boost, then you will get a boost. It also provides a short term goal to help break up longer runs. Instead of telling yourself "5 miles left to go" you can tell yourself "only 1 mile until my gel."
                  How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.
                    Nothing made a bigger impact on my long runs than starting to use Gu any time I go over 10 miles or so. It allows me train harder, run faster, do more specific work, and finish feeling strong - not to mention recover faster. Is some of it psychological? Maybe. But for me, it has made a huge difference. There've been other threads on this, with people (read: me) wondering if avoiding gels might somehow make you more efficient ... but I think the consensus was that unless you're competing in an event where you'll be without fuel and hydration, there's no point in training without fuel and hydration. If you're a Navy SEAL, it might make sense to do a 40 mile force march on an empty stomach, to get used to the feeling. But other than that, I can think of very few benefits to skipping the Gu ... and a lot of ways it could help. And as others have noted, if nothing else it's great practice for the actual race. Find out what works well and what doesn't, ahead of time. I've already discovered a couple gels that, uh, cause some problems. Really glad I did it on a training run and not in a marathon. That would have sucked.
                    E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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                      One more point - if you use the gels/Gu, follow the directions. Don't wait until you actually feel weak or hungry to take one. Every 45 minutes to an hour works best for me - just like the box says.
                      E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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                      Needs more cowbell!

                        One more point - if you use the gels/Gu, follow the directions. Don't wait until you actually feel weak or hungry to take one. Every 45 minutes to an hour works best for me - just like the box says.
                        Yep. I only use them if I am doing a run of 90 minutes or more--same with my Camelbak. I will generally use one before the last hour of my run, assuming I'm not running more than 2 hours. If I'm running more, then I will use one maybe 50 minutes in, then another 50 minutes in (my longest run yet was 2.5 hours). And I definitely need fluids to wash them down. I hate the gumminess left in my mouth from GU or other energy products. k

                        I shoot pretty things! ~

                        '14 Goals:

                        • 6 duathlons (1 Olympic distance)

                        • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)


                        A Dance with Monkeys

                          One more point - if you use the gels/Gu, follow the directions. Don't wait until you actually feel weak or hungry to take one. Every 45 minutes to an hour works best for me - just like the box says.
                          And with water. Not with sports drink.
                            Good advice by all. I can add these thoughts: I think McMillan says to plan in a couple of long runs into your training where you don't use gu, as this can (he thinks) train your body to use fuel more efficiently. If I'm going easy on my long run, I typically don't use gu. But if I want to do some faster, marathon-pace or progression type running during the long run, I will use gu. One thing that gus can teach you is the difference between the feeling of glycogen depletion and other forms of tiredness. This is an important thing to understand about your body. Bottom line: it will be available during your marathon, and it will help your performance if you are used to using it, so it's certainly not a sin.


                            A Dance with Monkeys

                              the difference between the feeling of glycogen depletion and other forms of tiredness.
                              Boy, what a feeling. Dead I have had true glycogen depletion (I believe) twice. There is simply nothing quite like it.
                                Yesterday I took an energy gel on my long run (11.5 mi) for the first time. I did this because last week, when I ran 10 mi for the first time, I really felt wiped out at the end. So I thought I'd try an energy gel on my next long run to see if that would help out. I tried a ClifShot - it didn't taste very good to say the least, but it did seem to help. But now I'm wondering if it is a good idea to use them - at least during traning - because I had read in Galloway's book that after one runs for more than 30 min, the body begins to rely more on fat for energy than on carbs, and that you need to train you body to be able to do this. So am I short-circuiting this by taking a carb energy gel midway through my long runs? I can see how you might want to do this during a race to try to get your best time, but I wonder if I should avoid this during training to make sure that my body gets better at using fat as an energy source. Does anyone have thoughts on this?
                                I don't know the answer to your question, but I'd like to make a suggestion. You should "road test" the gels you might be using during an actual marathon. Seeing how they affect you during training will ensure they don't have a nasty effect during a race. I've heard horror stories about people trying something new during the race and their stomachs revolting.
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