The most important gear for fuel is, of course, the fuel itself. We will discuss various nutrition plans and the importance of proper nutrition in a separate article, so this will just cover the basics.
Very simply, as you exercise, your body burns through carbohydrates and calories, which you need to replace as you run. The longer the run the more important it is to replace what you burn. The simpler the carbs better, as they can be broken down quickly and easily by your body, which can use them faster.
There are two common types of “fuel” as runners refer to them: gels and chews. Gels are small packets of flavored…well…goop is the best word I have to describe it. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of gels. They thick and, in my opinion overly sweet taste with a grainy texture that I just can’t stomach. Now, even though I don’t care for them, they are a very popular fuel choice and a lot of people do like them. Some of the advantages of gels are that they are small packets, which make them easier to take along on a run or race, they have a greater variety of flavors, and there is no chewing involved, you suck them out of their packets similar to how you would eat a GoGurt. There are a variety of brands to choose from: GU is one of the most common, however Cliff Shot, PowerBar, Hammer, Gatorade, and Honey Stinger all make gels as well. All of these brands tend to offer a variety of flavors, so there are plenty of options to find something that works well for you.
I am personally a fan of chews. Chews offer the same nutritional benefits of gels, but in a different form. Chews are similar to gummies, some have a texture like Swedish fish, and others are more like a gummy bear. These are an ideal option for people like me who just don’t care for the texture of gels. There are a few disadvantages to chews over gels: you have to chew them, which some people don’t like to do while running, a packet of chews is much larger than a packet of gel, and the flavor options are much more limited. My favorite brand in PowerBar Energy Blasts, they have the texture of gummy bears, except with a liquid center. Addie likes Honey Stinger, which have a texture similar to Swedish fish. GU also makes chews (which they used to call “Chomps” but recently started labeling the package with chews), as does Cliff (which they call Shot Bloks). I also train with Gatorade chews as my backup. While the PowerBar ones are my favorite, I train occasionally with the Gatorade ones because I know if I manage to forget to pack my chews, I can always get the Gatorade ones at a Walgreens or Walmart (two places that tend to have 24 hour locations in most cities) on my way to the race.
There are also a few less common fueling options. Jelly Belly Sport Beans, which are similar to chews except they are jelly beans. These are growing in popularity, especially for those who don’t like texture of gels or chews. Another option is Honey Stinger’s waffles. These are little waffle cookies. I have not tried either of these options, so I cannot give any reviews on these products.
The best thing you can do when you first get started in buy a variety of different flavors and brands and products to discover what works best for you.
Keeping yourself from getting dehydrated is every bit as important as keeping yourself fueled. You sweat a lot when you run, and you need to replace the liquid and electrolytes that you lose in your sweat. While water is important, if you are running anything longer than a 10k, you will want something that will help replace electrolytes. Gatorade/PowerAde is one of the first things people come to mind when thinking of sports drinks. They are definitely an option, and I am always thankful to see Gatorade at aid stations at my races; however they tend to have a ton of sugar and when consumed in large quantities more sodium than necessary as well. Many runners who choose to hydrate with more than just water tend to use Nuun tablets, which have the needed electrolytes without all the extra sugar. Just dissolve them in your water and you are ready to go.
Taking it With You
Of course, you are going to need a way to take your fuel and hydration with you on your runs. Of course you’ll need a water bottle, however if you are training for longer distances and don’t have a lot of access to places to refill your bottle (I live in a very rural area and pass only 1-2 water fountains on my 10+ mile runs) you may want to consider a hydration belt or vest. The simple versions have places to hold multiple water bottles, and they usually also have a small pocket to keep your fuel in. More complicated versions, such as those by CamelBak, have a bladder that can hold a liter or more of water. Though in my opinion something like that is unnecessary during a race, because the average half marathon has aid stations with water about every 2 miles, during training runs you may not have access to water when you need it unless you bring it along with you.
If you are in a position where just bringing a water bottle with you is all you need to stay hydrated, you will still need a way to bring your fuel with you. While some running gear may have pockets to keep your gels/chews in, some people find running belts (sometimes called fuel belts) extremely useful. These are sort of like fanny packs, but less bulky. They have small pockets that usually have room for your keys, your fuel, and maybe your cell phone and/or wallet. Addie uses a Flip Belt and loves it. I currently just keep all my stuff in my CamelBak; however I do not plan on running Dopey with my CamelBak, so I will likely be purchasing one of those for myself soon.
Just remember, everyone has their own personal preferences, so experiment to see what works best for you.
TMSM is very excited to publish the “Racing Disney” runDisney series by Addie Clark and Tali McPike. Please keep an eye out for more of their amazing and informative articles! If you missed of the articles in this series make sure you check them at www.themainstreetmouse.com/tag/addie/ and www.themainstreetmouse.com/tag/tali/
If you are planning on running in a runDisney event and have questions, or have participated and want to talk about your experiences make sure you visit our runDisney Forum at http://goo.gl/RLB5ka
- Racing Disney: The Importance of Tapering - January 4, 2016
- Racing Disney: Running (But Not Racing) at Walt Disney World - November 30, 2015
- Racing Disney: How Running Changed My Life - November 23, 2015