Something the Old RunningFox said about one of my earlier posts has got me thinking. I’d commented that I was using a combination of gels, dextrose tablets and isotonic drinks to fuel my long runs and he said, quite rightly, what would Ron Hill have made of that? In his day just a sip of water was enough to see him through a half marathon or even further. Quite true, I’m sure, and if I could run a half marathon in a hour or so I wouldn’t need all this extra fuel. But I can’t. Yet!
I’ve always gone by the rule that for runs up to 30 minutes I don’t need anything. Just a drink of water before I start and a drink of water when I’ve finished. Between 30 minutes and an hour, I carry water and sip it as I need it. Nothing more. Anything over an hour I take an isotonic sports drink with me and anything over two hours I take a gel half way round. I think that’s pretty standard thinking, although I’d be glad to hear if you think differently.
When I first started upping my distance I relied purely on water and jelly beans, not even fancy sport ones, just plain old jelly beans. Apart from the fact that they tend to merge into one huge jelly bean the longer I’m running, I’d probably be more inclined to take beans with me rather than gels or dextrose. What I’d really like to do though, is investigate some better, more natural, less scientific and ultimately cheaper ways of fuelling long runs.
I bought a bag of jelly beans the other day, purely for research purposes you understand. 100g (half the bag) contains 370 kcal, 0.3 g protein, 91.3g carbs (of which 52.9g are sugars), 0.1g fat (saturated), 0.1g fibre and not much else. In comparison the Dextrose tablets contain 1535 kcal, 0g protein, 88g carbs (79g sugars) and 0.3g fat per 100g. Not much difference energy wise. Costwise my bag of beans cost 89p for a 200g bag. A packet of 12 Dextro tablets cost 75p. Dextro Energy suggest popping a 3.4g tablet every 15 – 20 minutes. An equivalent amount of beans (approximately 12) would see me having to carry and consume, on a two hour run, almost 100 beans to every 8 tablets. I think I would be sick. I have no choice now but to eat my jelly beans to help fuel my search. Yum.
The other issue, for me, is that a lot of sports fuel have nuts or gelatine in then and I can’t/won’t eat those. I hunted high and low and read the small print on many, many gels before settling on the MaxiFuel Viper Active ones. I took one at 7 miles on a half marathon distance run. Their spiel says to take 1 – 2 every hour of exercise, which would really mean me having to take four of them. I tried the SIS gels on the Great North Run, opting to take three spaced out over 4, 7 and 11 miles as they suggested three per hour! Beforehand I thought this was excessive, but my Garmin data showed a definite boost about 10 – 15 minutes after consumption. The SIS gels are labelled as vegan. The MaxiFuel ones I will have checked as vegetarian, at least. On the run I find all gels difficult to open though; sweaty hands and wee rip off tops just don’t mix.
The problem is that gels and tablets tend to be more energy efficient per gram than anything else. That’s what they’re designed to be. So can I find something else, as compact and as nutritious?