One of the topics I get asked about the most through emails and comments is what I use to fuel my runs.
I have posted about it before, shared with you exactly how I practiced in the buildup to both London Marathon races, but this year, we are changing it up a little.
I know I am more fat adapted than I was before, but I also know that I cannot go as low with the carbs completely as I have been the past few months (not that I was planning on it anyway).
The last two marathons I have raced, I did not have had access to elite stations, and carried my fuel with me in the race.
This meant carrying four powerbar gels (three to take, and one spare) and EnduroPacks Liquid Electrolytes bottle in my Saucony Bullet shorts.
This worked fine, and I was happy with my fueling situation for the last two marathons, BUT I am still not very good at taking down gels, and I would rather use something that I know works well with my system, can give me a steady boost of energy, and works with the changes I have made to my diet.
Don’t worry, I have been adding more carbs back in 😉 I just feel this is going to be a better way to do it, and feel confident about taking liquids rather than gels.
What am I planning on taking for the California International Marathon?
I used UCAN for Chicago marathon, in fact, it was probably the only thing about that race that I feel actually did go right in 2014.
I probably would have kept going with UCAN in the past, had I been able to have elite bottles on the London marathon course.
I understand that for the majority of people, you will not have elite bottles at your next race, so logistically, how could you take UCAN for your race without carrying around a big bottle full?
The good thing about UCAN is that you do not need it as often as gels, as the energy release is more sustained.
Well, I thought long and hard about this, and here are some solutions I came up with:
- Take UCAN before the race begins, around the starting area, or in the first few miles to start off the race fully fueled and with your digestive system on the right path
- A LOT of elites use this method, including our favorite runner, MEB!
- Giving bottles to your loved ones to collect as you pass them (they could just use regular water bottles, so it does not matter if you throw it away once you are done with it.
- NOTE- make sure you check this is legal, some races do not allow spectators to hand runners anything.
- Try the UCAN bars- these are DELICIOUS and digest easily (I have eaten them just before heading out the door on a run).
- If you can take the time to eat something, these are much more enjoyable than taking down a gel
- Carry one bottle with a wide mouth, have one packet of UCAN in your shorts/pack, and at intervals, mix some of the powder with water from the stations, and consume. I usually use significantly less than the recommendation as it is quite strong, so I would say one packet would be enough for you to use multiple times.
I am not saying don’t use gels.
Actually for most people, I would probably recommend gels in addition to the UCAN, at alternating fueling points (I don’t mean every mile though!!).
I just know that gels become kinda hard to take down after a while because of the texture and just stealing your precious breath away from….well, trying not to hyperventilate 😉
Drinking down a liquid is MUCH easier.
This will save your breathing, palette, and digestive system.
So for example, if in the past you took gels every 45 minutes in your last marathon, you could do the following:
- UCAN 45 mins in (use half the packet, fold it over and put it back in your shorts OR Eat a Bar as you shouldn’t be out of breath at this point!)
- Gel of choice 1hr 30 mins in
- UCAN 2hrs 15 mins in (remaining half packet OR another bar, which might give you a welcome break to collect yourself as this is usually a rough patch)
- Gel of choice 3 hrs in
- UCAN 3 hr 45 (have a family member hand it to you)
- Gel 4hr 30
But you will have to play around with this to see what works for you.
I have also heard of people making their own gels, and can find out more about how to do that if you are interested 🙂 just let me know.
I find that UCAN is much easier to take down overall, but obviously more difficult logistically, so it is good to save the quick bursts of energy in the form of a gel for the later stages.
You will find that your body can digest a lot in the first half of the race before it is strained, so getting this slow releasing fuel will only help you later on.
I realize that I am incredibly lucky to be able to have bottles filled with whatever I like waiting for me on the side of the road at every 5k, and I wish this was available for everyone.
That being said though, I would not say not having it held me back at all in my last two marathons, so I am confident you can race well without tables, as long as you follow the one fundamental rule for the marathon; NEVER practice anything new on race day.
That means whatever product you want to use in your next marathon, you MUST make sure you practice with it.
Every long run
Trying it out at the exact time in the race you plan to use it.
So, lets say, you like me, want to take your fuel at miles 6, 12, 18, and 24.
If you figure you hope to be running AROUND (remember we don’t look at our GPS watches on race day :P) 8:00 per mile.
Well, 8×6=48, so around 48 minutes into your long run you should be practicing taking your fuel of choice.
If you are doing a 10 mile tempo run at your race pace, you should be practicing taking on fuel at least a few times during that.
Or if you are doing 3x3mile repeats, you would take on fuel during each of those 3 miles, to practice running fast and getting it down without choking…..believe me when I say this is the most important part.
Speaking of which, my best advice for actually drinking while running is to tip your head back as you squeeze the bottle, or squeeze the cup edge into a point, but DO NOT swallow yet. Once you pull the bottle or cup away from your mouth, tip your chin down, and then swallow.
Not foolproof, but I find that helps me to not choke on it by trying to squeeze, tip my head up, and swallow all at the same time.
So what is my plan with fueling for CIM?
In case you hadn’t already guessed, I am honored to be joining the UCAN team as my fueling sponsor for this year!
They were kind enough to send me a HUGGGEE selection of products a month ago, and Varun asked me for honest feedback about each of the products, which I LOVED as they were not just interested in the good, but what they could do to improve.
I don’t know about you, but as much as criticism hurts, it is good for us to learn where we went wrong.
I tested out all the flavors, and I tested out all the bars (which are SOOOOO good by the way!!), but I am afraid I still settled on my old favorite two flavors; Cranberry Raspberry and Blueberry Pomegranate.
A word of caution about those two flavors though. I have not come across anyone else who chooses those as their favorite. Most people like the tropical orange, lemonade, or cinnamon.
I am just not a citrusy person, and I love the berry ones!
UCAN also has protein products too, which make it nice and easy to take it down after a workout……or if you are not a drink-your-post-run-meal kinda person (which I am definitely not!), I love to put it in my recovery bowl 🙂
What if I am not racing the marathon?
Well, then it becomes even easier for you!
UCAN is PERFECT for drinking the morning of a workout, during a run, after a run, during breaks between intervals or any other time.
If you are not racing a marathon, and ESPECIALLY if you are one of those people who does not feel very hungry in the morning, being a drink, it makes it nice and easy to have right before you head out the door, and it sits nicely in your stomach.
Oh, and did I mention it actually assists with teaching your body to run on fat as fuel, rather than carbs, so for those of you trying to lose weight, this will help with that 🙂
I intend on trying out different ways of consuming the UCAN over the coming months.
The way I see it, I will have two options
- Diluted UCAN every 5k
- This means if I miss a bottle in the race, it does not matter, as I will have another chance in 5k
- Regular, meaning my body is able to absorb and digest a little at a time
- Stronger UCAN every 10k
- Gives my body time in between to fully digest and focus on running for a while
- Closer to my usual pattern of taking fuel every 40 ish minutes
- Still take on water every 5k
I can keep you posted on which way I end up taking it, and I am also going to test out Run Gum towards the end vs taking one gel right before the finish (around 1 mile to go). I will also keep my EnduroPacks spray in there, taking that on a few times during the race as well.
With over 2 months to go, I am not sure which will work best.
But this is why I am practicing what I preach with the testing it out during training 🙂
PLEEEEASSEEE do not change your fueling if you are racing Chicago marathon next week (but you can look at this race guide for it).
Stick with what you have practiced if your race is less than a month away, and try this out next time. If you are 1 month-6 weeks out, you have enough time, IF you are committed to trying it for every workout and long run moving forward.
I am excited to be sponsored by UCAN, and I will be sharing more details of my fueling plan with you, but right now that is all it is; a PLAN.
We do not have it 100% set, but that is what the next few months are for 🙂
Hopefully by now you know that although I may be sent products for free, I am honest with you, and will ONLY recommend something to you that I believe in.
I have been sent lots of products over the years that I have told the company I will not write about them (or could, but I will be honest and say I don’t like it!) as I do not like it, or do not believe in it…..but this, is another company I DO believe in, and I can recommend to you.
If you want to give it a try:
You can use my coupon code UCANELITETM for 10% off , just let me know what you think 🙂
Marathon Nutrition Cheatsheet
Don't leave race day to chance! Nail your marathon nutrition using this plan
Have you ever tried UCAN? How do you take it during runs?
Holy UCAN! That is a lot of stuff there girly 🙂 I hate to say it but, in all honesty, I have tired this in the past and it doesn’t agree with me 🙁 I know it works for SO many elites and hopefully it will do the same for your readers!
Wow that stuff all looks so good! I think I’d go with cinnamon flavoring. I am excited for you to try out this new fueling system. Can’t wait to see how it goes.
I know a lot of people love their Ucann. The two marathons I’ve run, I’ve used gels and been fairly fine with. Nutrition never beat me up as much as just the marathon. I’m glad you are able to get a gel sponsor because that does get expensive!
I love UCAN, but surprised you are using it since Jeff beat suggested in Podcast 86 that it does not live up to its claims of providing the same or more energy than malodexterin.
I’ve been following the claims vs. studies on this product for a while now, and while it’s not necessarily any more “Super” than other products offering quickly absorbable starches [typically a mix of monosaccharides],
taking in those simple carbohydrates [UCAN or otherwise] has been proven to improve performance,
so if that’s the company sponsoring you, it’s probably a good one to choose 😉
Ucan is the one thing I actually haven’t tried! I like my NUUN and GU gels for longer runs. Lots of great tips here Tina! So great in fact I shared your post on my post today! 🙂
Thanks for the tips! I purchased some to give it a shot. 🙂
Never tried UCAN. I like to try EVERY product (haha – FOMO) so I’ll give it a go in my Boston Marathon training.
I have also heard of people making their own gels, and can find out more about how to do that if you are interested
Yes, please, and if you’ve ever used your own concoction? My race fuel is the fuel I make and use during training, so I know precisely how I’ll react to it. It’s perfect enough for 100mile bike rides and 20mile runs. Really interested to see if some Elites subscribe to this?
I LOVE UCAN! I make my own gel out of it by adding only a little water and use mini ziplock baggies that I can carry with me. I still make it pretty liquidy, so it goes down easy but eliminates the need to have to suck down a lot of liquid at one time! You should totally try it!!
This is super helpful! I tried UCANN once but hadn’t figured out a way to use it for a marathon- your whole thought process was great, and gave me a few ideas. But for the marathon in 10 days, I’ll probably stick with HUMA which has been working.
I haven’t tried UCAN but now I’m very curious. My fueling is one thing I really continue to struggle with!
Ucan isn’t meant to be taken intra race by any serious marathoner, it’s pre and post race supplement. The science behind Ucan pre race is that it keeps the blood glucose from spiking, which allows you to utilize more fat than with high glucose levels. But during the race you need high glycemic carbohydrate that moves from the stomach to the small intestine quickly to be absorbed. You want quick gastric emptying. Definitely do not want to take in Ucan with protein during the race, gastric disaster. Meb does not drink Ucan during a race, he drinks half a Powerbar gel and a Salt Stix in 6-8oz water. In fact I think he only drinks it after the race for recovery. Pre race I believe he relies on pretty standard foods – bagels, bananas, honey. Meb does not exchange carbs for fats, rather he monitors volume of food and food quality. The most effective fuels are glucose or fructose based with caffeine. 10-15g carbohydrate per bottle. Ritz is also a GenUCAN athlete in addition to Meb, he takes Gatorade during marathons. Rice and milk before.
congrats on your new sponsor and good luck with your new fueling strategy.
I wanted to point out that taking bottles or really anything from spectators is prohibited by IAAF rules (rule 240)
“(e) An athlete who collects refreshment from a place other than the refreshment stations renders himself liable to disqualification.”
So I would say it is more accurate to say that most races do not allow you to take bottles from spectators. I fully understand that for non-elite runners that probably won’t be an issue, especially in the bigger road marathons nobody will care.
Best of luck in Sacramento!
I used lemonade UCAN for the Boston Marathon last year. It worked perfectly for me in terms of fueling and not feeling sick… but I was SO SICK of that lemonade flavor by race day. It was so hard to choke it down that day, but I knew I didn’t want to change anything at the race. I drank a bottle right before the race and carried a strong dose in a small bottle that I took halfway through. I haven’t been able to drink it since, but I know it worked for me. I need to regroup and see if different flavors are better the next time I decide to train for a marathon. (And they were barely coming out with the bars and cinnamon around that time, so I haven’t tried those!)