Fueling: An Update

Hello! Here is my update on fueling, as promised. I know you’ve been waiting for it on the edge of your seats! When we last left off, I had talked a bit about what a problem fueling has been for me in the past. I talked about hitting the wall and stomach issues from chomps.

In my race recap of the Fiesta Bowl Half, I mentioned briefly that I clearly didn’t have fueling down. I had a Picky Bar right before I started the race, battled side stitches, eventually took a gel, and then had a moment of nausea at about mile 12.

I am not here to say I have fueling down pat, but it has gotten a lot better.

First, I’m going to give a quick and dirty overview of why fueling is important. There are LOADS of articles on the interwebs that will give you accurate information of why fueling for marathons (or half marathons) is critical, but here’s my understanding. [I used this article as a reference if you want to go back and read some more detail]

(Please forgive me if I state this wrong. I’m a history major–not a scientist. This is a brief summary of my understanding of the way fueling and energy breakdown occurs. If I state something wrong, please feel free to correct me, kindly, in the comments. I aim to help here!)

Your body uses carbohydrates (stored as glycogen), fat and protein to create energy and fuel your daily activities. When your body is in a prolonged anerobic state of exercise, your body uses a combination of glycogen and fat to fuel your exercise (Protein is also used, but not as easily broken down, so it is not used as a prolonged energy source). While engaged in a prolonged activity–running as the case may be–your body begins to break down its glycogen stores to fuel your body. As your glycogen stores are depleted, your blood sugar levels fall and you begin to feel tired, light-headed and your legs feel heavy…aka, hitting the wall.

For runners, it is imperative that we restore our energy stores in order to extend the use of glycogen. That is why fueling during runs is so important. You want to maintain your glycogen stores for as long as you can. While engaged in our long training runs, our body is learning to turn fuel into energy by

  • becoming more efficient at converting fat into energy thereby protecting your stores of glycogen, and
  • increasing its ability to store glycogen in the muscles

All that to say, fueling is important to keep your body going. So, what have I been using on my long runs?


No gels, no chomps. Just Picky Bars.

Each bar is 200 calories and made to have a ratio of 4 Carbs : 1 Protein. For long runs, I cut a bar into four squares (50 cals each) and eat one square every 3 miles. I tried it for my 14 miler when I realized I didn’t have any gels and I didn’t feel like heading to the store for one gel. I had my box of Picky Bars and figured it was only a 14 miler, I’d give it a shot.

It was a stellar freaking run.

From my Instagram

From my Instagram

I finished and felt like I could have gone on for a few more miles–which is always a good sign when training!

I like the bars because they’re not too sweet, so I haven’t finished with that too-much-sugar feeling I got from chomps. It’s REAL food, so I feel like I’m not just putting something in my body to give me short bursts of energy, but that I’m actually feeding myself (Also, less dreams of post-run snackage because I’m during-run snacking!). The one downside is they’re a little harder to eat while running-they’re pretty dry and it takes effort to chew, but I think it’s worth a bit of extra effort and I always have my handheld water bottle with me anyway.

Overall, I’ve been feeling really good on my long runs. I had a kick ass 18 miler, my 16 miler was hard mentally but physically I felt decent, and my 14 miler was stellar. I’m interested to see how it goes on my 20 and 22 mile runs. I feel confident that this is the way to go for me. The gel didn’t seem to work too well for me during the half, but to be fair, that whole race felt bad.

I’m going to stick with the Picky Bars and see how it continues to fare. If my 20 miler is terrible on Sunday, I’ve got one more long run to try a Plan B. Though, I don’t really expect it to.

Besides the bar, I typically take plain ol’ water with me in the handheld. I use Nuun All Day during the day in my nalgene, but really, there’s no flavor I’ve found that makes me want to drink it on my long runs. I prefer just having water. It’s also what I typically drink during a race. I’ve tried alternating Gatorade (or Powerade…whatever they’re handing out) and water, but the sugar in the Gatorade usually does me in too.

I truly think I’ve found a fueling system that works for me. Of course the only real test will be on race day, but I feel more confident about my fueling situation than I have before. It’s working, and I’m excited about it!

***Picky Bars has no idea who I am. There are no affiliate links or any sponsored content here. I’m just a girl promoting a product I think is great.***

What do you typically use for fuel? Have you found a system that works great for you?


7 thoughts on “Fueling: An Update

  1. I am working on a post about my fueling adventures. I have never tried picky bars, but sometimes before a run I eat Lara or Luna Bars as a little boost. After reading this, I kinda want to give these a try. Thanks!


    • I used to do that too! I’d eat a Lara bar before my runs and then switched to the pickys when I found them. Give them a try! I feel like they’re a little heavier than Lara’s but they’re smaller, so I’m not eating a lot at one time if that makes sense. They’re definitely dense though. I was able to find them at my local running store but they’re pretty pricey, so I ended up joining the Picky Club which is more affordable!


  2. I really need to try picky bars. I’ve been using Larabars (1 bar cut into 4 feels equal to 2 gels for me) during my long runs and ate one during my last marathon. I like it a lot. They’re sweet, because they are made with dates, but I don’t find them to be sickeningly sweet like gels. I have the same problem though, they require a good amount of chewing so it’s a little hard to eat them on the run. I also think that the little bit of protein and fat (from walnuts) helps me to feel satiated and not like I just slurped on some sugar.

    I don’t really know though, I think this is still a work in progress. In races I usually alternate between water and whatever gatorade-like substance is being handed out, but I train with my own gatorade mix that is way less sweet, so I need to figure that out before my next race.


    • Try them! I feel the same way–I think the protein from the nuts is beneficial over the gels. They’re a little pricier than larabars but the picky club makes it much more affordable and the convenience can’t be beat! I saw your post with your energy drink and want to try it! I’m tempted to bring my handheld to the race, but I really don’t want to carry it for 26 miles.


  3. Pingback: January 2015: The Rundown | Running High

  4. Pingback: Pick your perfect Picky Bar for a Picky Bar prize! | Running High

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