Nutrition on the Course
Nutrition can be one of the most confusing topics when it comes to what works and what doesn't work. Caffeine or no caffeine? Gels or Blocks? And with all the questions about what works there are just as many brands: GU, Hammer, NUUN, PowerBar, Clif, Energy Blasts...and for convenience there are even more flavors: orange, raspberry, tri-berry, espresso love, vanilla, green apple, tangerine, montana huckleberry, banana, chocolate, melon, mocha, lemon tea, ...this list is seemingly endless. In fact, at The Balanced Athlete we have over 50 unique flavors of gels, blocks, recovery fluid, and energy bars.
So, with an endless selection how do you narrow things down to what works? You try things out during your training. Everyone has a different metabolic rate, so determining how many to use can be a little tricky, but to start take one gel or energy block, every 30 minutes with about 4 oz of water and adjust things slightly on each run to find the perfect match. As you begin running longer and longer you'll discover what flavors work with you the best and the best time pattern. One thing to keep in mind is that any time you ingest food while exercising it takes about 20 minutes before the food is absorbed into your body, so taking a gel or block when you're feeling bad will result in at least 20 more minutes before you start noticing some positive change. That being said, take the gels or blocks while you're feeling good and always with water. Start by deciding what you think you may like, grab a few products, and give it a go.
A quick breakdown of the major differences between gels and blocks:
Gels tend have the consistency of syrup. Some will be more watery than others, but they all provide the same benefit of helping to replenish glycogen stores that you're depleting as you run.
Blocks offer an alternative to the gooey consistency by giving you a gummy bear like product filled with complex carbohydrates and electrolytes.
Water should always be taken with anything ingested to help your body digest the food. Some gels and blocks have caffeine, the best way to look at this option, if you feel like it may help and your body can handle it, no harm in having it your quick energy food.
Everyone is different and everyone will develop a different formula for success when it comes to nutrition. If you have any specific 'on course nutrition' questions leave us a comment on the blog and we'll help you figure it out.