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How not to hit the wall during a marathon by fuelling sufficiently

The marathon wall can stop you dead in your tracks. You’ve reached mile 20 and everything hurts, your legs are like concrete blocks, it’s a run/walk strategy to the finish line.

During my first two marathons I hit the wall. The first time around mile 18, it was soul destroying having to struggle for the rest of the race. My body and mind had literally given up, I had used all my energy stores, and I was running on empty.

As my knowledge around marathon training started to grow, so did my confidence. I started to train smarter and understand how best to fuel my body over 26.2 miles.

The long runs became key for practicing different combinations and finding the right balance of fuelling the marathon.

 

FUELLING THE MARATHON

Race day breakfast was two crumpets, a banana and a coffee, followed by 600ml of Raspberry SiS GO Electrolyte Powder.

My fuelling plan for Chester was straight forward. I was going to have a Science in Sport GO Isotonic Gel every 45 minutes, this was a mantra I’d started in my training runs so I knew I’d continue this on race day. I also had half of a Science in Sport GO Energy Bar every 7- 8 miles and picked up sport drinks where possible.

This worked perfectly for me. My first three 10km splits where all averaged 7.05 pace, followed by the last 10km split in 7.07. I didn’t stop, and I didn’t hit the wall, instead I finished the marathon strong with a ten-minute personal best in 3:07:23. I’d finally conquered the dreaded wall.

 

MY TIPS ON FUELLING AND BEATING THE WALL 

  1. Take on extra carbohydrates and hydration during race week. The Science in Sport GO Electrolyte Powder works perfectly for me, as it’s the perfect mix for carb loading and hydration.
  2. Trial and error are also key. Does a gel every 30 minutes work? Is it 45 minutes like myself? Plan your long runs as you would your race.
  3. Stay positive and run with a smile, everything is easier when you are enjoying it. Think of something that makes you happy.
  4. Finally, trust your training. You’ve put the work in for 16-20 weeks, this one last run is your victory lap.

 

MARATHON DAY RECOMMENDATIONS

Pre-race

Carbohydrate loading is an important method to enhance marathon performance. This allows the marathon runner to run at their optimal pace for an extended period before resulting in fatiguing. Runners should consume sufficient carbohydrate to restore glycogen stores between each training session. It is recommended to intake 10–12 g/kg/day of carbohydrate 36-48 hours prior to the race. On the morning of the race, a breakfast could consist of foods such as, cereals, bagels, toast, fruit juice and jam. Breakfast should be consumed 1-3 hours before the race, this will allow time for digestion and limit the chance of GI (gastrointestinal) issues occurring. Consider taking 3-6mg/kg of caffeine (caffeine gel) before the race to reduce the perception of fatigue.

In-race fuelling

Fuelling during the race should begin in the first hour. The recommended amount of carbohydrate intake per hour is 90-120g. This could amount to about 3-4 GO Energy gels. Hydration is also a vital factor while fuelling. Sweat rate can vary between exercise from 0.3-2.4L/hr depending on the intensity, duration and environmental conditions. Total body fluid should be limited to <2% body weight (BW), so it is important to replace sweat losses while racing. The combination of fluid and carbohydrates should be taken alongside each other. Additionally, take about 3-6mg/kg of caffeine (caffeine gel) during the last hour of the race to promote an ergogenic effect to decrease the sensation of fatigue.

Recovery

Running a marathon will deplete your glycogen stores, cause muscle damage and can result in fluid loss. Your recovery afterwards should be fixated on carbohydrate and protein to replenish glycogen stores and to promote protein synthesis. Head on over to our Recovery Powders Explained | Rego Rapid Recovery VS. Rego Rapid Recovery + article to gain some more insight into the benefits that each product provide for refuelling within 30 minutes of finishing a race.

 

Fuelling with Beta Fuel

About Beta Fuel

The Science in Sport Beta Fuel Dual Source Energy Drink delivers an optimised 80g of carbohydrate in a single, convenient isotonic fuelling solution with minimal risk of GI discomfort that enables you to maintain optimal performance. Use one powder sachet per hour or combine with Beta Fuel Gels or Chew Bar to hit hourly 80-120g carbohydrate intake. Make sure to sip little and often during prolonged endurance exercise.

The Science Behind Beta Fuel

  • A ratio of 1:0.8 enhances exogenous CHO oxidation compared with 2:1 ratio by 17% (O’Brien et al) and 10% (O’Brien et al)
  • A ratio of 1:0.8 enhances mean power output during 10 maximal sprint efforts by 3% compared with 2:1 ratio (O’Brien et al)
  • A ratio of 1:0.8 increases % of ingested CHO that was oxidised (efficiency) from 62% (2:1) to 74% (1:0.8) (O’Brien et al)
  • A ratio of 1:0.8 reduces symptoms of stomach fullness and nausea when compared with a ratio of 2:1 (O’Brien et al)
  • A 1:0.8 ratio of maltodextrin to fructose increases the percentage of ingested carbohydrate that is oxidized (known as efficiency) from 62% to 74% when compared with a ratio of 2:1
  • A 1:0.8 ratio of maltodextrin to fructose reduces self-reported symptoms of stomach fullness when compared with a ratio of 2:1

Key Benefits

  • 1:0.8 Maltodextrin:Fructose
  • 80g carbohydrates per serving
  • Isotonic Formulation

 

With hard work and the right fuelling anything is possible.

 

REFERENCES

Burke L. M. (2007). Nutrition strategies for the marathon: fuel for training and racing. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)37(4-5), 344–347. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200737040-00018

Jeukendrup A.E. Carbohydrate feeding during exercise. Eur. J. Sport Sci. 2008; 8:77–86. doi: 10.1080/17461390801918971.

Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. 109(3), pp.509-527.

O’Brien, W. J., Stannard, S. R., Clarke, J. A., & Rowlands, D. S. (2013). Fructose-maltodextrin ratio governs exogenous and other CHO oxidation and performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise45(9), 1814–1824. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e31828e12d4

Written By

Lee Dodds & Calum Garrigan