More Fuel is the Key to Racing?

Dublin Marathon 2012I found this study fascinating. I’m always trying to figure out the proper balance of nutrition during a marathon–how much is too much? Sometimes I find myself hungry during a race and have obviously let my tank get too empty, but I worry I will take in to much and cause stomach problems. But that may not be the case…Now it looks like I need to fuel more.

A new study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise shows aggressive fueling may be the key to optimal performance. Researchers recruited runners training for the 2013 Copenhagen Marathon and told them to finish a 10K time trial about seven weeks before the race. Runners were grouped into pairs based on speed. From each pair, one runner used the fueling strategy developed by the researchers, while the other was told to fuel however he or she wanted. All runners completed a half marathon five weeks before race day and so everyone could practice their particular fueling strategy.

Next came marathon day and the results were surprising:

In the 2013 Copenhagen Marathon, the 28 runners who were using the fueling plan ran an average of 4.7 percent faster than the 28 who didn’t. No one reported gastrointestinal issues–which to me, is the most curious result of all. You’d think the opposite would be true, but I was pleased to discover that’s not the case.

Each runner on the scientists’ fueling plan took in about 25 ounces of H20 and three High5 EnergyGel Plus gelsĀ  per hour. Each of these gels contains 30 milligrams of caffeine, a known performance enhancer.

High5 EnergyGel is not available in the U.S., so to replicate the study, look for a gel that contains caffeine and more than one type of sugar (glucose, fructose, maltodextrin, etc.) If you are not a caffeinated beverage drinker, this much caffeine may have poor results and give you the shakes. Try to ease into it.