Race Nutrition - What Works for Me

I belong to several Facebook running groups and one of the recurring themes is: what do you eat and drink during a race?  The answers are as varied as the shapes and sizes of runners in a typical race.  It's a darn good thing there are choices, because there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  My best advice to new distance runners is to try various products in various amounts on your training runs close to home.  When you find out what works for you, stick with it.  So, what do I eat and drink during a race?  I thought you'd never ask.

First of all, I maintain a daily regimen of high-quality supplements.  My brand of choice is Isotonix, distributed by a great company called Shop.com (I'd be happy to tell you a little more if you're interested).  The powdered supplements get mixed with water and are highly absorbable.  I take the Multivitamin + Iron, Calcium Plus, Vitamin D, Activated B Complex, and OPC-3 (an antioxidant blend) daily.  I find that I am more energized and just feel better when I take good supplements.
Some of my Isotonix supplements
Most big races offer both water and some sort of electrolyte sports drink on the course.  The problem with sports drinks is that they vary greatly.  Some have more sugar than others, some cause gastro-intestinal problems for certain people, and even if you are used to a certain brand, on a race course, it could be reconstituted (mixed with water) at a concentration you are not used to.  For people with iron stomaches, or those who don't really care how much sugar they consume, these may be non-issues.  Personally, I like to carry my own sports drink, Sustain Sport, from a direct marketing company called Melaleuca (yes, I can tell you more about this company too...).  What I like about Sustain Sport is that it is sugar-free and very portable.  I can take the little packets with me when I'm traveling to a race and add a packet to my water bottles.  This way, my body always has the same drink out on the race course.  I sip from my bottles as necessary, and when I run through the water stations I only take the water.
Packets of my sports drink, Sustain Sport by Melaleuca
My belt from iFitness carries my sports drink, Gu and phone, and has toggles to attach my race bib
But what about refueling during a long run or a race?  There are so many options: gels, gummies, jelly beans, energy bars, and even solid foods like pretzels.  For me, solid food just doesn't work.  It's too difficult to eat on the run.  When I began training for my first marathon, I experimented with all kinds of gels (the gummies were not as widely available then) and settled on the brand Gu.  To me, Gu had the most preferable texture and selection of flavors.  If the idea of consuming a 100 calorie packet of gooey stuff sounds unappealing to you, think of it this way: all gels are basically a paste of sugars and flavorings.  If it helps, think of them as icing or a glaze that you might use to top a cake.
Gu rations for a Half Marathon
When I started back running, I was pleased to find that Gu now had its own version of energy gummies: Gu Chomps.  So, now I alternate between traditional Gu and Gu Chomps.  It's nice to have a variety of flavors and textures.  I usually only take fuel with me when I'm running 10 miles or more, and I consume one serving (one Gu packet, or one half pack of Gu Chomps) every 45-50 minutes.  If my energy is low, I may take more.  I pack all of these goodies in my hydration belt, which I've equipped with an extra pouch.  I take more than I think I will need, because you just never know.  Sometimes you need an extra boost, or sometimes you need to give a Gu away to a fellow runner in need.
Gu rations for a Full Marathon
So, Isotonix prepares me for a race, Sustain Sport and Gu get me through it.  What about when I'm finished?  Most races give out a bottle of sports drink at the finish, some even give out chocolate milk, and there are usually bananas and bagels to be had.  But once again, I like to come prepared with my own post-race recovery drink.  I've been drinking Endurox R4 for almost a year; it's a balanced formula of carbs and protein.  My flavor of choice is Fruit Punch.  I can't say that it takes away all my aches and pains, but I do think it helps with muscle recovery, and definitely fluid replenishment.  I mix up a bottle at home and then take it with me to a race.  If the weather is warm, I'll freeze the bottle the night before.  If I'm traveling, I pack single servings of Endurox R4 in zipper bags and mix with a bottle of water in my hotel room, then stash it in the ice bucket overnight.  Then I put the bottle in my bag-check bag so it's there for me at the finish.  It's nice to know I have something dependable to drink when I'm done with a race.
Endurox R4 canister and as packaged for travel
And then, of course, there is the ultimate post-race beverage: beer!  So many races have beer gardens now, and I can see why.  Not only is beer refreshing to drink after a hot race, but it is also a form of carbo replenishment!  Plus, hanging out with other runners and sharing a brew is a great reward for completing 13.1 or 26.2!


  1. You can find Isotonix at www.shop.com/westhartford
    There are all sorts of choices.
    We are so happy that Sandy sees the value of these superior quality supplements!

  2. Still a believer, though I've simplified my supplement routine. I also take fewer on-course gels than I used to.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Tokyo Marathon Fail (My Undeserved DNF)

Comparing Two Large European Marathons: Rome vs. Paris

2019 Hong Kong Marathon Race Report