Marathon Training Nutrition Experiment

I've used all kinds of different nutrition products over the years. When I first started running I used nothing- no water, no fuel. It worked for a half marathon, but as I found myself bonking during training for my first full marathon, I realized that I needed to eat.

I started with the Jelly Belly Sport Beans but soon realized it was way too much work to eat all those individual beans. Plus they tasted way too sweet by the second or third package on a run.

GU Energy Gel Espresso Love - Box of 24
I love the Espresso Flavor!
I stuck with GU gels for my next couple marathons and liked the flavors and the convenience, but started to burn out on the texture. Plus I had to take all of it at once, so I felt like I got a big burst of energy and then crashed quickly. I tried taking half and putting the rest back in my pack, but I always ended up with a sticky mess!

Next up was Hammer Perpetuem which I tried to see if a product with protein would help keep my energy levels higher. That did not last long because I found it too chalky and it hurt my stomach.

For my last marathon I tried GU chomps next because I wanted a product that I could take every 15-20 minutes instead of once an hour. The blocks worked well for that, but they froze in the winter, and like the gels, I got tired of the texture after awhile.

Strawberry Lemonade
Stuff of miracles folks. Seriously.
Through all of this I stuck with plain old water. Occasionally I'd try a few sips of a sports drink, but they always hurt my stomach.

All of these product (except the Perpetuem) worked for me, but I never felt like my fueling was ideal. So in training this winter, I've been doing an experiment.

First, I tried using Nuun instead of plain water. This stuff is AMAZING! It doesn't bother my stomach at all, has a mild, but tasty, flavor and I feel so much better hydrated. My fingers don't swell up nearly as much, my sweat isn't as salty, and I don't feel that insatiable thirst I used to feel at the end my run. In addition to adding Nuun, I've just upped my fluid intake in general. I used to only take 6 oz for runs 13 miles and under and 12 oz for anything over that. Now I carry a 16 oz bottle and have my husband come meet me midway with a second bottle for runs over 16 miles.

I want ALL the fuel!
Secondly, I've started using multiple fuel sources during a single run. This solves the issue of taste or texture fatigue and I feel like it overall keeps my energy levels higher because each gives me something a little different. Overall that was my dissatisfaction with all the fueling options I've tried. I liked them at first, but as I consumed 3-4 of them in a single long run, I got tired of them and I felt like they weren't providing well-rounded energy. Mixing them up seems to work a lot better!

I also include some kind of "real food" (i.e. not gels or chomps). I save this for the last half of the run when I am starting to feel hungry and want something more solid. I've used Fig Newtons, these wheat figgy bars from Nature Box, and Cliff Bars. I spread it out so I'm having a bit every 15 minutes or so.

What other fuels have you tried and loved that I should add to my mix? Do you tend to stick with a single type of fuel or do you also mix it up? What is your favorite flavor GU?


  1. You should try UnTapped. They are gel packets like Gu except they are 100% pure VT maple syrup. Great for quick energy and they are delicious and easy on stomach.

  2. NUUN is my favorite! I love Honey Stingers...gentle on my tummy and easy to shove into my bra so I can just grab a few while running. :) Gross, I know. But so convenient!


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