To Gel or Not to Gel for Your Run?


So you’re training for your first half marathon and you’re going to need some fuel on your long runs. Gone are the days of just grabbing a swig of Gatorade at the rest stops. Now there are gels, gummies and bars alongside the sport drinks. What’s a runner to choose?

If you are running for over an hour, you will need to eat, drink or suck fuel in the form of carbohydrate starting at the 45minute mark. Eat too early and your body starts burning more sugar instead of fat, eat too late and your legs turn to spaghetti as your blood sugar drops, otherwise known as “hitting the wall”.

Try to consume about 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, starting at the 45minute mark. Of course, goes without saying, we need to drink early and drink regularly, about ½-1 cup of water every 15-20minutes on our runs, to stay hydrated. Drink too little, or too late and your run will end abruptly with a muscle cramp or side stitch.

Gels, bars, gummies and sport drinks are all specially formulated for endurance sport, using an easily digestible form of carbohydrate. When we are running, our blood goes to our muscles leaving our digestive system on standby. Some stomachs are more sensitive than others, but this is not the time to try to digest a candy bar, slurpee or a pack of Skittles.  Regrettably, if you have tried this your run would have ended abruptly in a bathroom stall.

When we take a gel, bar or gummies, we must drink our water with it or we may need an urgent bathroom stop too… more on “runners trots” another day. Sport drinks are an easy solution since they cover our exact need for fluid and fuel together.

To be sure, it takes lots of trial and error to test our perfect fuel and fluid combination for those long runs. Fortunately, training for the long Sunday morning runs is quite the best part of running I think. Happy running.

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