Over the years, I’ve tried many types of gels, gummies, drinks, shakes, squeezes, and bars. As my body has changed physiologically and continues to adapt to the distance running life, my fuel needs change. These are the items I am currently using and have found helpful.
VegaSport – I have stuck with this company the longest of any. They have several great products even for everyday life use, but there are three that I regularly use in training. If I had to have a favorite, it’s their recovery accelerator powder that is meant to be downed immediately (or ASAP) after hard efforts. For me, that means speed workouts, long runs, and races. Next, is their sport protein powder. I like to mix it with full fat milk and strawberries, bananas, or pineapple as a shake to have a few hours after finishing a long run or a race distance of 13 miles or longer. Lastly, and not from their sport line, is clean energy electrolyte powder. Sometimes in the early morning runs I’ll just drink this before and eat something more substantial after. Rarely do I use it mid day for a pre-workout, but if I feel I need something to get me going, I will. This is also what I use in combination with unflavored UCAN powder.
Maurten Gel – I love these! My stomach likes them and they work fast. They don’t have any unnecessary ingredients. I use them on my long runs and during marathons. Pretty pricey at $45 for 12, but worth it.
Generation UCAN – My most recent addition, this powder’s fame is growing fast in the running community. It’s powder gives slow, sustaining energy. They have multiple flavors that have electrolytes already in them or you can buy the unflavored and add your own. I buy the unflavored and add in the Vega clean energy. I drink that mix 30-45 minutes before long runs and half/full marathon races. For the half marathon distance, it’s ALL I need – I don’t take any gels or use course provided nutrition. They have a hydration only mix that I haven’t tried, and also bars. The bars are nasty.
Gatorade Organic – Call me a traditionalist. Gatorade is the most popular sports drink and is on the course at most of the big races. I’m not a fan of the dyes and other additives in the original, but the organic tastes great with simple ingredients. As an athlete, I’m not worried about the sugar and believe it’s necessary at times. I drink one after an easy run, in the middle of a busy work day, after a swim, several hours after a marathon if I feel I need it, or the day before to make sure I have what I need at the start. It’s not on a schedule, or always before or after a certain activity, but I always keep them on hand.
SportLegs – These capsules are used mostly by cyclists, but they prime your muscles to make less lactic acid during intense exercise. I only use them for racing because your body adapts to the use of them and eventually you wouldn’t notice any benefit. It’s the same science behind “HotShots” which are more commonly used by runners.
In training, it’s important to put a focus on REAL food. You don’t want to find yourself living off sport’s nutrition supplements. I try to eat a fair amount of energy boosting and recovery foods in my plant-based diet. But sometimes we put our bodies through so much stress, we need a little extra help. I’m still trying new things and have a few in the que but I’m always hesitant and slow to make nutritional changes.