"How do I fuel for a half marathon?" is a question I get asked a lot. The 13.1 mile distance is a natural step up for new runners making progress but it can be a bit daunting when it comes to what you need to before, during and after the race.
The biggest concerns is what - and how much - to take on board during the race. With all the carb gels, sports drinks and advice about hydration, it can be confusing for first timers and seasoned half marathoners alike.
The general recommendation is 60g of carbs per hour for exercise over an hour and a new study by the International Journal of Sports Medicine has suggested that gels beat glucose drinks.
The study tracked the treadmill half marathon times for fifteen runners on three occasions. Each runner tested three fuelling strategies.
Each ran once drinking 20 grams of carbohydrate every 20 minutes, and twice while taking a gel containing 20 grams of carbohydrate every 20 minutes plus drinking a non-caloric electrolyte drink whenever they wanted.
The carbohydrates in one of the gels came entirely from glucose, the other gel contained a mixture of glucose and fructose.
While the study found no significant difference in performance, the water intake on the runs where sports drinks were consumed as a main fuel rose significantly.
But perhaps more importantly the researchers also found that although during the gel half marathons, the runners lost 2-3 percent of their body weight; but said that amount wasn’t large enough to cause performance declines from dehydration.
In plain speak that means you can get the same performance from gels plus water that you would from sports drinks and frankly it’s easier to consume gels on the move than drink 60g of carbs.
Though it’s still necessary to take water on board during the race.
Half Marathon Fuelling Tips:
1. Take a 20g carb gel every 20 mins
2. Drink small amounts of water or non-caloric electrolyte drink (e.g. SOS Rehydrate) regularly