5 Ways to Rethink Fuel


I am the person who gained weight training for my first half marathon, which is ironic, considering that part of why I started to run was that I though it would be helpful with those last few pounds — only to have it pile on even more pounds — in the beginning.

Of course I had to relearn my lesson training for my first race longer than a half, too. I’m not 100% sure why I gained a few pounds — I mean, I was running the most weekly mileage of my life! Surely I could maintain my weight. Right? Right?

I am joining the Friday Five 2.0 from Fairytales & Fitness and Rachel @ Running on Happy and sharing five ways to look a little differently on how you fuel your runs.


You don’t always need it
You’ve looked at the gels, right? Most of them say right on them “take one 15 minutes before exercise and every 45 minutes during”.

I’m one of those weirdos that actually like GUs. The taste, anyway, I don’t use GUs in my races (or on long runs) anymore. But I sure took that to heart.

Guess what? For runs under an hour you don’t need a GU. Not before, during, or after. I learned that the hard way. Some people eat nothing unless it’s double digits. I’ve done runs as long as 8 miles with no fuel during.

Like most things with running, you have to play around with it and find what works for you.

I like Honeystinger Chews partially because I can take one every mile

It doesn’t have to be gels 
I don’t use gels. Or sport beans. Or blocks.

I have played around with various real food options, but what I’ve found to work for me is Honeystinger Chews (I’m a Honeystinger Ambassador) + home made (very plain) chocolate chip cookies from the Feedzone Portables book (Amazon Affiliate link).

Other options:

  • Fig Newtons
  • Pretzels
  • According to my coach, Rachel @ Runningonhappy, Payday candy (I need to get some!)
  • Applesauce
  • Raisins

Not every run deserves a treat
I think this may have been what got me training for the 1812 Challenge. Of course I didn’t treat myself after every run, but I was running a lot more and I thought I could get away with more sugar than normal.

Some people can. Genetically gifted people. Younger people. If you find the scale going in the wrong direction or your clothes getting tighter, take a look at how often you’re treating yourself.

A fasted run can be a good run
I will admit it right here, right now: not a super fan of the fasted run (where you run early and don’t eat anything before the run). I always feel as though I run out of gas. And the supposed fat burning benefit? The juries still out on that one.

This summer forced me to get out there earlier than normal, and there were a few fasted runs here and there. I survived. Some people, especially people with stomach issues, really benefit from the fasted run.

And who doesn’t want a cookie while running?

Think IV, not shot
Years ago I attended a talk by a sports nutritionist. She suggested that taking a gel every 45 minutes was much more likely to lead to stomach upset and also uneven energy on the run.

She said that it was better to take in a little bit more frequently, like an IV drip. I changed how I fueled on long runs and haven’t looked back. It’s part of why I ditched the gels altogether.

I take one Honeystinger Chew or a few bites of my cookie every mile.

Talk to me. Leave a comment or answer a question:

Are you true to GU?

Do you actually like fasted runs?

Favorite real food running fuel?

19 thoughts on “5 Ways to Rethink Fuel

  1. That marathoners gain weight during training is one of those worst held secrets. Runger is real! As far as fueling goes, I have a very sensitive Gi system, so what the dietician said makes total sense to me. I’ve had the best success with Tailwind and sipping it slowly throughout my long run. I never realized that running fasted was “a thing” since it’s something I’ve always done on runs less than an hour. I never wanted to take the time to eat and wait for digestion before heading out on a run.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I tried fasted runs earlier this year and once I got to 4 miles I was done had no energy left at all. I was also so starving afterwards I ate more. I also like the chews bc I can just eat one or two if I feel like I need a boost.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting points! I don’t take fuel during a run unless its a run over 90 minutes. That seems to be the tipping point for me. And my morning runs during the week are fasting runs, but that’s mostly just because it’s the only way I can get them in before work. But that would be 4 miles at the most so it’s been fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I never use gels, blocks or beans either. I don’t usually eat anything at all for a half or anything shorter. For a longer race, I eat dried apricots, pretzels, salted almonds – REAL food. Of course, most trail races have many well-stocked aid stations along the way. My last one had watermelon, French fries (freshly made right there), bacon, sandwiches, etc., etc. Oh, and my favorite – licorice!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A good bulk of my runs are fasted run. I typically cannot eat a lot before a long run or a race so my runs that are 10 miles or less are faster. For 10 miles or more I might eat a handful of pretzels or a piece of dry toast before my run. I know it’s not ideal, but it works for me.


  6. I have low blood sugar and can’t fast before a run. I’ll run hungry after getting home from work, and I have a Clif bar in my system since that’s my afternoon snack. I don’t do long enough runs to need anything besides sports bean when I do my 5- and 6-milers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do run fasted, but not because I desire the supposed benefits. It’s just I’m not hungry first thing in the morning, either 5am or 5:30am. On the weekends, when I run later in the morning, I definitely eat beforehand. So I guess I can run fasted as long as I don’t FEEL hungry.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. YES TO THE PAYDAY!!! They’re delicious AND a great source of fuel — a little salty, a little sweet, just the right amount of calories.

    I don’t do gels, either. In the worst-case-scenario situations when I DO have to take a gel, I sip on it. Like you mentioned about the IV drip, gels don’t sit so well with me if I down them in one fell swoop. A little bit goes a long way for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Are you true to GU? No. They are plain icky & too much sugar.

    Do you actually like fasted runs? Yes as I have stomach issues.

    Favorite real food running fuel? Raw unsalted nuts. No peanuts though


  10. When I run in the morning it is usually fasted. Most of my runs have been shorter distances lately which do not require fueling during it but I do feel like I should have some fuel afterwards even though I am not hungry and then I will take a GU because I cant stand to actually eat food. I think the GU is giving me nutrition but I guess it’s all sugar. Fueling has always been a challenge for me. -M

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have been using the HS chews and have not had any icky GI distress following my runs/races. Finally, a form of fuel that seems to like me (I used to be a loyal GU gal, but in recent years my tummy revolts a few hours after I’m done running). I’m also a fan of fasted running (anything 6 miles or less, that is). I have been a dedicated “fasted cardio” gal almost every morning for the past several months (if it’s not a running morning, I do a power walk or HIIT workout). I have not really changed my diet, but all of my clothes are filling loose, especially around my waist. The fat is melting away (slowly) with very limited effort on my part…it didn’t happen overnight, but it’s been a slow and very easy gradual change.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I am one of those people who actually likes fasted runs. I used to do speedwork fasted to avoid side stitches, but recently it’s been working better to eat a little bit beforehand.

    I actually ran my first half marathon without any fuel during – I think I had a banana or something beforehand – I didn’t know enough back then to even know that eating during a race was something you did! But I wasn’t trained to run it hard anyway, so not having fuel didn’t really bother me.


  13. Interesting post. I gained weight during training for my first two marathons: I worked hard not to over-reward and my gel and drink intake didn’t exceed my calories burned on runs, so I put it down to my body panicking and hanging onto fat for dear life because it thought we were dong some epic stone age migration or something. Interestingly, it didn’t happen during my third lot of training or my training for my 18 (19.2) mile race earlier this year, so I think I’ve acclimatised.

    I do use Gu and Torq gels – even though I have IBS, it’s the kind that comes from nerves, not food, although I was still surprised I can use them. Only get them out for over 10 miles, though (2 hour runs). I use lucozade sport drink over 10 miles, diluted half-and-half if I can. I take them every 45 mins but that’s when i start them and I do sip them as I go. And then get cross looking for a bin to put the packet in …

    I can run fasted as I don’t like to have breakfast earlier than 5 which makes 8 the earliest I can run as I have to have a big food-run gap. I can get up to 5.8 miles fasted so probably 6 but no more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m ok with getting up early to eat. 🙂

      That’s really interesting that you gained for your first 2 marathons, but not the third. It did take me a while to figure out how to train for a half and maintain (or lose) weight.

      I do think it takes a while for our bodies to figure out what’s going on!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. All morning runs are fasted …just don’t like to eat before I run. However, I am a GU girl. I usually take one every 4 miles once for long runs. I also sip on Tailwind. I’m sure I’m taking in way too many calories but it works for me. Now that I’ve been trail running, I’m being introduced to real food for fuel …but it all seems to be ‘junk food’ i.e. Oreos, chips, etc. Not sure how I feel about that yet. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

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