When Taking The Gels in a Marathon or Half Marathon

A few days ago we talked about the different types of energy gels that you can consume within a long distance test, and is that not all gels are the same: We need to know exactly what their composition to know what we are taking at any time and choose which best suit us.

We have also talked about how to take them (and how it is necessary to accompany them and never water energy drink, for example) to avoid that they feel bad to stomach: one of the most frequent complications when you start taking gels in career.

Now yes, we are going to the subject that concerns us today: When should take gels in a race long distance? Must we set ourselves on the accumulated kilometers or elapsed time? We have it then.

Look at the time and not in kilometers

Is it better to opt for “I will take the gel at the 10 km” or “I’m going to take the gel when it takes an hour of career”? The most advisable, although each must adapt to their circumstances, is I plan the taking of gels by time and not by miles. Thus the intake of energy we adapt our rhythm and our effort, and not to the distance travelled.

Our bodies can assimilate a maximum of around of 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour (that may raise up to approximately 90 grams if these carbohydrates come from different sources, such as fructose and glucose): this is a fact that we must bear in mind not to pass us with gels, something which we could cause stomach upset in race.

That said and knowing how much carbohydrates contain gels that we are going to take (should check the nutrition label, but they generally tend to be between 25 to 35 grams of carbohydrates per gel) only have to take account: We should not pass two or three gels per hour, but it is possible that we do not need both.

What does science?

Has it studied the effectiveness of supplementation with gels in long-distance sports? Yes, and perhaps the best-known study was 2013, that compared to marathon runners who ran without a nutritional strategy with another perfectly planned group. The final result tells us that the group with the planned strategy ended the test 5% faster, What strategy they followed?

Each of the gels that consumed contained 20 grams of glucose, 0.02 grams of sodium and caffeine 0.03. In addition to gels, consumed 750 ml of water per hour to promote the digestion of the same and to avoid dehydration, and distributed them in the following manner:

  • Two gels 40 minutes before starting the test, together with water (40 grams of glucose in total)
  • A gel every 20 minutes of career (60 grams of glucose per hour in total)

The study sample is small (28 runners, without being elite none of them) and we must bear in mind that gels used are small (generally usually contain, as we have said about 30 grams of carbohydrates), but can you give us an idea of How can we apply our own nutritional strategy.

Apply your own experience

As we have said on previous occasions, supplementation is also trained: It is imperative that before taking gels in a long distance race we have rehearsed before taking in training, both to see which is the composition that is best going to know when you should take them.

Personally, to me I work well take a gel (35 grams of carbohydrates) before the race, and continue with one per hour in the next hours, and this is the strategy I’m going to follow in the face to the marathon. Always accompanied by water and taken slowly so that the stomach can assimilate them properly.

When planning our intake of gels also we must take into account the logistics: many gels over perhaps is a little cumbersome, so you know if in the refreshment of the race offered some (and what brand and type are), let them previously someone to join us or you go to see us so that you may give us at any given time (which I think is what I will do) or replace them with power gominolas (easier to transport) can be other options.

The most important thing: test, test and test again to leave the race day perfect.

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