Earlier this year I wrote a post as part of the Run With An Idea debates which posed the question ‘Are Sports Nutrition products a waste of money?’. My opinion on this is clear – there are certain products that I rely on during my training and for me they are definitely good value.
During my marathon training I had the opportunity to try out a few different products so I thought I’d share my thoughts on those with you.
Staying hydrated through marathon training is a big deal and on the day of the London Marathon itself this year it was essential. It was a hot day and I was out in that heat with little respite for nearly 6 hours. My absolute saviour when it comes to hydration are Nuun tablets. I came across these last year and always have a tube in the cupboard. They contain electrolytes but not sugar so are a really healthy way to make sure that your hydration levels are tip top.
Throughout my training I made sure that I was well hydrated by having a large bottle of water with me at all times. I often dissolved a Nuun tablet in this to make sure that I was getting the electrolytes that I needed as well.
On my long training runs I would take a handheld bottle out with me and on the day of the race itself I started with a handheld full of Nuun. I then switched to water and at 21 miles I picked up another bottle of Nuun from my family. At 22 miles I had started to experience cramp in my shins but soon after drinking the Nuun this disappeared. I’m sure that the salts had something to do with that.
It’s also a bit of a miracle hangover cure, especially if you can remember to drink it before going to bed!
If you’re running for more than about 90minues then you’re going to need to top up your energy stores. Gels are the most common way of doing this and I’m lucky that I can stomach most of the ones that I’ve tried. My go-to gels are Power Bar but I also tried out Torq gels during my training and used a combination of the two on the day. The Torq Rhubarb and Custard flavour were my particular favourite!
There are lots of different options available to try out and for most people I think it’s a case of trial and error to see what works best for you. Do this during training though, not on the day of the race – the last thing you want to find out on the day is that a new style of gel makes you feel queasy.
There are other options for people that don’t like or can’t stomach gels. My personal favourite are Cliff shot blocks which have a consistency like a jelly sweet. I had a tube of these with me on marathon day and they made a nice change to the slightly slimy gels.
I’ve recently been sent a couple of products from a company called Gluco. I’ve not had a chance to try them out yet but their glucose juice and gluco tabs look like they could be good alternatives to gels.
I’m a big fan of whey protein post workout as a quick and convenient way to get protein on board. I’ve recently discovered Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard which I’m now a big fan of. I don’t usually like chocolate flavoured products – they never taste as good as chocolate itself – but I really like this one and the powder was really easy to mix up too – nothing worse than a lumpy protein shake!
After a really long run I’m also conscious of the need to replenish carbohydrate and these energy bars from Power Bar are a quick and easy way to get some back on board. They’ve also got a decent hit of protein too. They taste a bit too much like a chocolate bar though so I have to be very restrained with them!
While ideally I’d like to get most of my nutritional needs from food rather than rely on supplements there are times when it’s quicker and easier to eat a bar or have a shake. I see nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn’t become the major source of nutrition. However, when training for events like a marathon in particular they become an essential part of your fuelling and hydration strategy.
In the interests of disclosure I should point out that GNC sent me a bumper box of products to try out for free. I also received the Gluco products to review for free. I paid for all the other products myself and all opinions are my own.