Author: Maeve Anderson – 2X Ironman finisher, 4X Ironman70.3, 4X Ultra marathoner
In the endurance community, everyone has an opinion on what works best for fueling on long bike rides and runs — maybe it’s GU energy gel, shot blocks, a bunch of gummy worms, or even a bag of straight mashed potatoes — if it works, it works!!
How to fuel during a marathon?
Nutrition can be one of the more intimidating elements of preparing for your first marathon, Ironman, or a long weekend of riding. There are so many options, ranging from rocket fuel to candy and what works for one athlete could be an utter disaster for another. Over the years of Ironman training and ultra-running, I’ve come to develop a simple equation for deciding what to carry on long runs and rides.
My top 5 fueling tips for a marathon!
1. Train your stomach for running
Aim for 250+ calories an hour for long training days and race day. Training your stomach is almost as important as training your legs to go the distance! Getting enough fuel will also make recovery so much easier after a long day in the saddle or on the trails. This will seem like A LOT when you first get started, but over time you’ll build your iron stomach.
2. Bring salty foods for training
If you are going to be out for a super long day, consider carrying salty and sweet options! Sometimes all those GU energy gels and sweet energy drinks can start tasting gross without some salt to balance it out when training. You’ll also be losing a lot of sodium through sweat, which is important to replenish. So, don’t forget to bring salty foods for training, I love pringles or pretzels, but I’ve seen racers take boiled potatoes, pickles, or even just a little package of salt as options.
3. Caffeine before running
Check to see if your fuel has caffeine or not, and test this out BEFORE race day! Lots of fuel, particularly gels, come in caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions (read the fine print!) Some athletes swear by a little caffeine to get them through a long day of swimming/biking/running, but it could also could just not work with your system. This leads me to the cardinal rule…
4. Don’t try anything new on race day!
Make sure you’ve trained with the same fueling you intend to use on race day. If you’re super savvy, this could mean looking up on the race website what they will provide on the course on race day. You could integrate this into your training. However, if they’ll be providing gels and Gatorade, and you know you won’t jive with either, don’t be afraid to bring your own fuel. The best fuel for a marathon is the one you’ll eat.
5. Make it fun: bring the best fuel for your long runs
Lastly, make it FUN, find something that tastes good, and that you even look forward to! Rocketship-torpedo-ultra-elite-performance gels aren’t the only option! Of course, the brand names have great options, and some swear by GU Roctane Gels or Maurten fuel. However, sometimes a bag of gummy worms or pop tarts can do the trick. During training try out lots of options to see what makes you feel your best! My favorite mix of fuel for long runs is Strawberry Pop-tarts, Pringles, and Maurten Drink Mix!
Follow Maeve's Journery at @maeve_a