Friday, August 19, 2011

Fueling Friday

So I have thought about doing a post about how to appropriately fuel for a run for quite some time, I even tried to get a guest blogger to come do some notes on it, but alas, no dice. But now that I am back up to decent distances (yes, I have failed to fill you all in, but my half marathon training is somewhat back on track, with 4 weeks left to go!) I have been re-evaluating my fuel options.

I often do not fule for anything less than 10-12k. Just water. I find for this distance, as long as I get home and grab some lovely chocolate milk or other source of nutrients, I'm good.

But, with the longer runs now, I need something to keep me going. Every runner has their preferences, and I will just share mine! So here are some of the popular choices (food based, not any electrolytes or other brews), and my thoughts on them.

Clif: Clif offers two different products, the gels and the the shot bloks. I have tried both, and although I am not a fan of the chewiness and stickiness of some chews, I think Clif has hit a good balance for both of these products. I can take them manageably, and the flavours are pretty decent. They also tend to be cheaper than many of the other products out there, and the gels have convenient little tabs so that you don't have to litter on the run. That being said, I find the effect, the high you get is a bit muted, and may not last as long. They are my current #2 brand!

Powerbar: Probably one of the oldest and most well known companies for sports energy products, the powerbars, bites, blasts and the gels can be found in most sports stores and often in grocery stores. Powerbar provides a number of flavours and are generally middle of the pack on cost. I have tried the bars for non-running, and like them. On the run, I can't really fathom eating a powerbar, so I have tried the gel and the blasts. Sadly, I hate them. The gel in both products has a taste and consistency that I just cannot stomach, and they generally cause me some GI issues. They might work for some people, just not at all for me. I'd rather run without fuel than use powerbar gel.

Stingers: I have a pack of these purchased, but haven't gotten the chance to bite into them yet. The stingers are made of honey and kola nut, which is the natural source for caffiene, and they use mostly organic materials. The company produces waffles, stingers, and gels, but they are VERY hard to find in my area. I have never seen the gel, and the waffles and stingers are generally only available at Running Room. Stingers are limited in flavours as well, but are reasonably priced.

Jelly Belly: This is JB's attempt to diversify it's products, by taking jelly beans and adding some electrolytes and vitamins. These taste just like the real jelly bellys, which is an advantage in the taste arena. However, they are also made 100% like jelly beans, meaning a sugary exterior and chewy interior which equals a bad mix for me. I hate eating something that tastes so much like candy while running. They are extremely portable, and I love how the little bags are resealable, but I will take a pass on these beans.

Sharkies: These adorable little jelly candies pack real fruit flavour and some serious energy. The package is a bit more bulky, meaning that they can be harder to carry on longer runs, especially if you need to carry more than one. Nutritionally, they are a good balance of everything you need while on the run, and I find the energy is really great over the long term - no peak and crash. I do find that Sharkies have a bit of an aftertaste, and can stick in your teeth quite easily (saving for later?) but generally a good choice.

Gu: With Gu, you either love it or hate it. And many, many people love it. Myself included. Medium price (not including the Roctane), but with a superior energy punch, and great long term power to get your through the tough runs. I tend to like the variety of flavours available, both fruity and heavier options. I personally LOVE the Jet Blackberry flavour (2x caffiene for the win!). My #1 choice on all runs.
Carb Boom: this product has larger packages and can be quite hard to find outside of specialty stores. They also quite high calorie content, and either no caffiene or double caffiene. Personally I have never tried this brand, so I can't rate the effectiveness, but I have heard both good and bad things about this product. It is thin and can be messy.

Hammer Gel: Again, one I haven't tried due to it's lack of general availability in my area. Only available at Running Room. Medium price, about 9 flavours to try from. Lower on calories and made with real fruit. Noted to have a lower initial punch and long term energy boost than some other brands.

Here's an interesting chart about most of the brands above, plus some I assume are American:

What product is your favourite? How do you fuel on the go?


  1. I'm pretty much a slave to GU. I like the consistency of the gels. I can't do chews as it's a texture thing. Usually I start using it at 1 hour and then every hour after that. I know the directions say every 45 minutes, but that usually makes me have to stop at a bathroom... :( It's all about experimenting which, unfortunately, can get pricey.

    You can get Honey Stingers (not the gel), Carb Boom, Sharkies and Clif at Mountain Equipment Co-op. As much as I love RR - it's where I run - I'll go where ever the deals are. They are a little expensive in this department. A quick check on the HS and Hammer/Heed websites shows that there are a few places in Ottawa that carry their products. Maybe one is near you?

  2. I like Gu, although I've had some nausea issues in the last miles of a marathon. I will sometimes use Luna Moons, Clif shot blocks, or sports beans on long runs (not races) for variety, when I don't mind stopping to pick at my teeth. I have also tried a chocolate agave gel called Chocolate No. 9 which I might consider more in future. (I am from the U.S., Washington state.)