Experimenting with Nutrition on Long Runs

Since delving back into double-digit runs I have been experimenting with my nutrition for long runs. During my last 2 marathon training cycles I used Honey Stingers and Accel Gels. They worked fine, but by the end of the cycles I found myself tired of them so I decided to change things up for this go-around.

I used Hammer gels 2 years ago while training for the Portland Marathon and it worked well for me. It's also gluten-free which one of the main reasons I've decided to go back to it.

A few weeks ago I went to REI to pick up some gels, they had a big sale on a variety of Hammer products so I picked up some Perpetuem, Recoverite and some of their bars to try.

I was only familiar with the gel products, not the others but I remembered that a few months ago when I picked up a booklet on Hammer Nutrition products that I never got around to reading. So I sat down, read through the entire thing and wen I was done I still had questions. So I took to their web site, which answered some of my questions, but not all. So then I called them and they were very helpful in helping me understand how and when to use each product. Great customer service.

For the 13-mile run I ran two weeks ago:

  • I ate a Hammer gel (I like Raspberry and Orange) one hour into the run, which was fine.
  • Just before the two-hour mark I felt hungry so I ate a Perpetuem. The taste was fine (like orange candy) but it was very chewy and stuck to my teeth. I also still felt hungry, which perplexed me because Perpetuem is what they recommend for runs lasting longer than two hours.
  • I also found myself dehydrated by the end of this run having only drunk 1 filling of water in my handheld Amphipod (with one Nuun tablet). Nuun is awesome but I should have refilled my bottle.

For the 15-mile run that I ran last week:

  • I ate a Hammer gel one hour into the run, which again was fine.
  • I ate a Perpetuem going into the second hour, which again, tasted fine, stuck to my teeth and did nothing to fill me. However, in anticipation that this might happen again I also had a Picky Bar. After 20-min of feeling no effects from the Perpetuem, I ate a few bites of the Picky Bar. You might be wondering why I don't just eat Picky Bars. Well, it has a lot of fat in it, which I’m realizing (again) upsets my stomach pretty bad on long runs, which is why I saved it for the end of the run.
  • I ran on the Peninsula, which is much warmer than the City, so I refilled my handheld every 5-miles with water and a Nuun tablet and felt fine. No dehydration.

For the 16-mile run I attempted this past weekend:

  • With my stomach completing revolting I hesitated to even attempt to eat anything on this run. But I knew I had to so I forced myself to eat 1 Hammer gel. It didn't make things any worse than they already were. I didn't attempt to eat anything else.
  • I drank 2 fills water in my handheld Amphipod with one Nuun tablet for each time.

So what went wrong this past weekend?

Several weeks ago I stopped tracking my food, something I normally do when in the throes of marathon training. But I'm in the midst of participating in "An Assessment of Nutrition Knowledge and Feeding Practices of Adult Female Marathoners” study and have to track my food and training meticulously for one full week. Coincidentally it was this past week.

After my first DNF exactly a year ago, I figured out that my body does not process fats very well, especially when running.

In reviewing my Food Log over the past week, the only thing is slightly out of the ordinary is that I may have eaten too much nut butter and smoked salmon (not together of course).

This makes me so sad. I love Almond Butter so very much. I guess tried to convince myself that my tummy could handle it, but I truly think it’s the culprit for the recent GI woes. I’m going to go without it this week and see how this weekend’s long run goes. You honestly have no idea how sad this makes me...

Nuun

I'm a Nuun convert. I don't just drink it on runs; I drink it all day long. Nuun recently came out with Nuun All-Day that (from what I understand) has less sodium than regular Nuun. I'm going to be honest here, it does not taste as good as regular Nuun. In fact, I even thought it tasted medicinal. But it’s gradually grown on me and now I drink it on non-running days. I like the Tangerine-Lime.

On days that I run; during and after the run, I drink regular Nuun. I've found that when I drink (enough of) it, I don’t feel so “depleted” at the end. And it tastes really good too! My favorite flavors are TriBerry and Strawberry Lemonade.

Recovery Drinks

I tried Hammer's Recoverite drinks after two of the three long runs. The Orange flavored drink tasted great, the Chocolate not so much. It's hard to say if it minimized post-run soreness because I did a lot of other things to help with that. What I will say is that it didn't feel any different than if I had just drank a glass of chocolate (almond) milk post run, which I think I'll just continue to do instead.

On a semi-related note, you might be wondering how I carry all these things on my long run?

A few months ago Lululemon came out with the "Stuff Your Bra" sports bra. It is the greatest sports bra ever. I can stuff a ton of gels, keys, arm warmers, pretty much anything into it.

The bra was only available for a short period. I'm very surprised it wasn't more popular. I regret only getting one bra and would jump at the chance to purchase another one (or two).

Using the bra leaves my hands free to carry a handheld Amphipod. The handheld has a little pocket where I store the Nuun tablets. Using a trick I picked up from my friend Alyssa, I wrap the Nuun tablets in foil and stick them in the little pocket.

What doesn't stay dry? The Picky Bar.

Picky Bars recently changed their packaging from a clear plastic zip lock-type of bag to printed-paper packaging. I've experimented with both types of packaging over the past two weeks and found that the new packaging doesn't hold up very well in sweat. It's not a "make it or break it" thing for me, but it does get rather messy. The old packaging holds up much better.

Moving Forward...

I plan to continue eating Hammer Gels every hour or so during the three-fourths of my long runs. Then towards the end of the run when I need a little something more substantial, I plan to have a Picky Bar (my favorite is the Smooth Caffeinator ) and hope my stomach can tolerate it for the last one-fourth of the run.

And of course, I’ll continue to drink Nuun.

I have a little over 6 weeks to try this new plan out and really hope it works.

If anyone with gluten and lactose intolerances has any other suggestions, please send them my way!