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Alternatives to performance gels.

I have run five marathons with a personal record of 4:15. During my long training runs, I would like to use some form of carb replacement. Yet I find the mere thought of eating something sweet, like a power bar, nauseating. I've tried everything, including sports drinks, sports bars, gels, and candy. Any suggestions?

Carry Foiste

Oregon City, OR

You are not alone with this problem and my hunch is that it has something to do with the change in your body chemistry during endurance exercise that creates an aversion to food in general, or specifically to sweets.

As you know, carbohydrate replacement improves the average time to fatigue during endurance exercise.

Research has shown that taking carbs before exercise helps, but having some during exercise is at least as important. However, you don't need specific sports products to accomplish this. Use what works for you. Choose foods that provide a lower glycemic index prior to exercise (such as a whole-wheat bagel or oatmeal and skim milk). Low glycemic foods make your blood sugar rise more slowly than sugar, and as a result, they tend to be less sweet.

During exercise, choose foods that are higher in the glycemic index, but still, not too sweet. Some suggestions include crackers (saltines or grahams), bananas, potatoes, or white bread. The key with these dry foods is that you will also need to take in plenty of water during your workout, but it does not need to be a carbohydrate beverage. Choosing salty snacks will be an advantage for you since you are a four-hour marathoner and you will need to replace sodium.

You may also find that salty foods will be more palatable. Try taking your carbs after the first 60 to 90 minutes, then every 30 minutes or so. Consume about 0.5 grams per pound of body weight every hour. If you weigh 130 pounds, that is about 65 grams per hour or about 30 every half-hour.

To increase the palatability of sports drinks you might try freezing a bottle (remove a little before you freeze it, since it will expand) and carry it in a waist pack. By the time you drink it, it will be partially thawed, very cold and slushy, and you may find it easier to take.

You can also experiment with homemade drinks. Dilute fruit juice, one for one, and add one teaspoon of salt or light salt (for the electrolytes). Or try one tablespoon of sugar, a pinch of salt, one tablespoon of orange or lemon juice, and 7.5 ounces of ice water. That's from Nancy Clark's New York City Marathon Cookbook, which is an excellent resource if you want more ideas and great recipes.

The key is to find what works for you. There is no hard and fast rule that you must use the commercial carbohydrate replacements. Plan ahead and try different foods and timing of food intake during your training runs. Have a high-carb meal two to three hours prior to the event (one hour if you can tolerate it), drink plenty of water before beginning and then begin your carbohydrate replacement about 20 minutes before you think your body will need it.

Sarah Harding Laidlaw, MS, RD

Littleton, CO

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Title Annotation:THE CLINIC
Author:Laidlaw, Sarah Harding
Publication:Running & FitNews
Date:Jul 1, 2015
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