Should you drink or eat your fuel for endurance racing

One of the biggest things you'll have to ask yourself as you go longer and longer for your races is,

"How do I fuel?"

"How do I feel best?"

"What should I eat?"

Should you drink or eat your fuel for endurance racing

One of the biggest things you'll have to ask yourself as you go longer and longer for your races is,

"How do I fuel?"

"How do I feel best?"

"What should I eat?"

And in that question is a more divisive and possibly great choice for you to figure out what works for you. And that is, should you eat or drink your fuel?

I'm Jesse Funk, founder of and the host of this show Runner's High, where we talk about everything running and endurance related. So if you like running, if you like long-distance races, you want to learn more about the nitty-gritty details, about training, all of the considerations, the things you need to do to be the best runner you can possibly be. Hit Subscribe. Stick around with me for more episodes in the future.

So we want to talk about fuel today and should you eat or drink your fuel? And some people do a mixture of both. But I want to talk about the pros and cons of taking each approach. Now I want to get my bias out of the way. And that being said, I want to try to avoid bias today. But for full disclosure, we do make a personalized drink series called the SYNC Hydration Series, which is a zero sugar hydration drink with electrolytes in it based on your particular needs, because everybody sweats and loses different amount of electrolytes in their sweat based largely on their genetics.

We chose to take the approach of saying no fuel in the hydration drink and then fueling separately and I'll get into why as we go further in the video. But I want to give that as a disclaimer that that is our official company position, but it isn't necessarily the best way to go for you.

And a good example of that is the other show I do on this channel, the Smart Athlete Podcast I was speaking with Katie Spots. That was episode 146. I had to look at my notes and Katie was at least four time the youngest woman to row across the Atlantic solo, and she basically just had her hydration and fuel all in one solution because it's just too complicated when you're just rowing for hours and trying to fuel at the same time for her to want to do all of that.

So simplicity is one of the keys. So let's get into why you would choose one of the over and let's start with the kind of classic approach of we're going to drink our fuel.

The first pro, simply put, is simplicity. Exactly that. You don't have a lot to worry about when you are going to take everything in all at once. In another video on the channel, I referred to this as the shotgun method. You don't necessarily get to do everything precisely, but you also don't have to worry about doing everything precisely. So a little bit depends on your particular personality.

If you want to be more precision oriented, then this may not be the approach for you. But if you want to be simplicity oriented, not to say the other way. It can't be simple as well, but super simple. Just not thinking about it at all. This is the way to go. So there are brands like the classic Gatorade. Tailwind is a very popular endurance brand that does this kind of all-in-one approach.

Another pro for this method is going to be that you're going to have probably a little bit easier digestion time because your sugar in this case is already dissolved into a liquid and liquids are easier to digest. That being said, one of the biggest cons and I guess this is the pro for the other side is that when you include fuel in your hydration and this is one of the big points of why we didn't do this with our particular drink. You slow down how fast you hydrate.

And the reason is because of the concentration of solutes or stuff dissolved in the water slows down how fast the water gets into your cells. I did an experiment on this channel to show you the difference between what's referred to as a hypertonic drink like our sports drink versus an isotonic drink. It's called the Gummy Bear Hydration Strategy. At the end of this video, I will link to that video if you want to check that out.

But that is a potential con and that's where you go. Okay. How important is hydration to the activity I'm participating in? My personal brand is if it is a very hot activity or race or it is a very long, long race. So you're going marathon ultra, anything like that. I tend to prioritize hydration because we need to keep our bodies cool. If we run out of glycogen, which we've got about 2 hours stored without taking anything in, we can still burn body fat for fuel and continue to move.

However, if we overheat through dehydration, you're kind of cooked if your day is going to be over. Really fast. And you're probably gonna end up in the medical tent. Ask me how I know. I've been through that when I had my sports drink messed up and went through some very hot and long races. So those are very big considerations.

Another con for potentially taking in everything all at once is a lack of ability to know exactly what your carbohydrate intake has been. And this goes to, again, con on one side, pro on the other. So we know that most people typically can consume and digest 200 to 300 calories per hour while they're working out. This is something that you have to kind of experiment with a little bit to figure out what your body will tolerate. And they might tolerate a different amount. Let's say in the case of triathlon, it may tolerate a different amount while you're biking versus running because of the sloshing that goes on when you're running.

So in most of our cases, if you're here on this channel, you're probably a runner. But I also have a triathlon background, so I think about that. Sometimes the imprecision of trying to drink your fuel means that you don't necessarily know how much you've taken in. You're also coupling your hydration needs with your fueling needs, which further creates that imprecision.

So if, you know, say, in a 16-ounce bottle, you've got 150 calories and then you also have a gel or some other kind of food you want to take in the whole bottle and you also want to take in the gel. OK Great. You know, you can tolerate them, everything's solid. You get your plan. Problem arises when you have temperature changes on race day and in two directions.

One, if it's hotter and you need to take in more water now, you're consequently taking in more fuel, which can create problems, especially if you have a single source of sugar in that fuel, because over roughly 60 grams an hour of one type of sugar because there's many different types of sugar, our body can't really digest that. So you can end up with GI distress.

That's a potential downside. I think needing to go poop on the side of the road during the middle of the race is not a dream race for anybody. But beyond that is the other direction where you go.

Now it's cooler. You're still working as hard as you were before, your body staying cooler, so you don't need to hydrate as much. But now if you don't take in that water, then you also don't take in that fuel which can mess up the whole plan. And that's kind of a big reason of why I like to uncouple or decouple the fuel from my hydration. Because if you take hydration separately and we think about this is our component of, you know, it's variable based on how hot it is, how hard we're working, and then fuel is, relatively speaking, constant.

We can adjust our hydration a little bit on the fly. We know again from another video I've done, we each have different sweat rate as well as that different concentration loss. There are two different things you need to check out at the end of this video. There's another video link to where we calculate what your sweat rate is.

So, you know, for a given temperature, maybe I lose a liter an hour. For me, average temperature, 60, 70 degrees, I lose roughly 40 to 44 ounces, fluid ounces per hour. So I'm a little bit above average and I know if it's hotter, I'm going to probably lose more. So I'm going to want to try to hit close to my liter maximum tolerance per hour than my body can handle. Most people can't drink more than a liter an hour.

However, if it's colder, I'm not going to force myself to drink a liter an hour. I kind of do sip checks where I go every 5 minutes. Take a sip, am I thirsty? And then you can make adjustments on the fly. But that temperature change doesn't really change largely on a macro level. How many calories I'm going to need to consume for a race. So when I separate them, it makes it a little bit easier to control.

This is where I said, in the beginning, it's not as simple, and that means you have to carry fuel and hydration. So it's two things instead of one thing, but it can be just as simple when you think about your system and you put a plan in place of knowing, "These are the things I want to fuel with", and then I've got this drink that's variable that will help me stay hydrated throughout the race instead of having to hydrate and fuel with your drink.

So that's why we made ours. The SYNC hydration system. Again, personalized electrolytes based on your particular needs. If you'd like to check that out, right there at the top of the shop. You can take the quiz. We'll help pair you with the correct level of electrolytes for your particular needs. And as mentioned, those two videos I said I'd link to should be shown up on the screen here shortly, so I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.

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