In Which Jenn Discusses Mid-Run Fueling

Running fuel Clif Shot Bloks

I dunno, guys. I must be doing it wrong.

Earlier we talked about pre- and post-run fueling, and that’s very important. But it seems like there’s a whole lot of buzz surrounding the gels and beans and shots and such that provide energy during a run. Many reported that they found substantial improvement in their runs when they consumed something during, and as a fledgling runner I thought: clearly I need some energy gels!

Mid-Run Fueling

After Moon and I had somewhat mixed results with Energy Bits, I was determined to figure out what WOULD work. I went straight to the store and bought several types of fuel: Honey Stinger organic chews, Clif Shots, Clif Shot Bloks, and, as my control group, some Swedish fish. I have tried them all multiple times and I can say now, with confidence, what makes a definitive difference in my performance.

None of them.

Oh, sure, I had some good runs using the fuels. But I had just as many lackluster runs. I never felt any energy surges, and at no point can I report feeling AWESOME I COULD RUN FOREVER which, puzzlingly to me, many people seem to. (Is it the caffeine? I can drink a cup of coffee and go right to sleep. I KNEW that would come back to bite me!)

Now, I will note one advantage. I mentioned before that occasionally, if I’ve pounded particularly hard or long, I feel a little sick after a run, and need to sit down and eat something immediately. I did find that, if I had eat something during the run, I was far less likely to feel sick afterward. For this purpose, there was a winner – Clif Shot Bloks, which were reasonably tasty, fairly easy to get down, and did tend to make me feel a little more together. If any one fuel worked for me, it would be that one. But even with the Bloks I never really felt more capable, and where I succeeded it seemed more due to mental endurance than added physical endurance.

What I have decided is that I will consume Bloks under the following circumstances:

  1. For races, where it’s best to be able to pound hard AND long without worry.

  2. If I plan to run more than 14 miles, which seems to be around where I start needing the extra oomph.

Other than that, the jury’s still out. I know there are LOTS of other options out there, but most of them require special trips or ordering online, and the ones I tried were readily available in the store. I suppose I could try one of those sample box subscriptions like Kona Kase, but I’m not at all sure I want to make that financial commitment.

Hmmm… Would anyone like some Swedish fish?

Anyone out there have a similar problem? Have you found your perfect mid-run fuel?

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  1. I have to yet to see conclusive proof in my personal experiences that these do anything. 15 miler in humid weather with shot blocks: still felt terrible. 20 miler in cooler temps without shot blocks: just wonderful. Now WATER on the other hand, I learned that I actually do indeed kinda sorta need that.

  2. Oh, yes, water is definitely key. Which is why I find it extra annoying that the gym has no bathroom or alternate water sources. >.< The things we suffer through in basement gyms!

  3. I've tried all this nonsense too, and I agree that there isn't really anything that makes me feel like I'm performing better. But I do know that when I'm running for more than 10 miles, I generally start to get slow and tired and somewhat sluggish, and I know that clearly my body is burning calories and needs sustenance to keep going. SCIENCE and all that. I hate the consistency of Gu/shots, so I stick to Clif Bloks. Or sometimes just Haribo gummi bears. They're tasty and a good size! I really crave simple sugars after a long run, and fruity things are the only thing I can get down — they handed out Hershey Miniatures during mile 22 or 23 of the WDW Marathon, and I popped one in my mouth and immediately spit it out. Too heavy. But I ate half a bag of Haribo on the course, and the other half when I finished! HARIBO IS THE WAY TO GO.

  4. Pretzels work for me. I can't exactly carry them on a run, but for anything over 16 miles I break it up into 2 loops and pop into my house for a bathroom break, water refil and snack! During a full marathon I try to station a family member someplace mid-race to hand some off to me!

    Otherwise I do like the honey stinger chews best if I'm going to throw something in my belt.

  5. Oh, yeah, I hear pretzels can be good. I think I skipped them during my experiment because I was worried about the salt making me too thirsty, but they may be worth a try!

  6. Jenn–I (Lisa) am a bit of an anomaly on the fuel thing. I never use fuel (or water) in the midst of my training runs or races (baring a horrible situation on race day like heatwave conditions that leave you crazy thirsty/depleted). Instead, I tend to eat a midnight breakfast before race day (2 pieces of toast with PB and J) or eat 2-3 hours before I get in training runs. I find that I always make it to the end without issues…but again…I have been told I am totally weird. 🙂

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