I've reached a point where my training runs are long enough (2 - 3 hours) and far enough (15+ miles) that I need to take on board some additional energy in the form of gels and/or sports drinks in order to complete them.
Is there any documented or recognised rate or consumption or guidelines as to how this should ideally be done in order to get the maximum benefits?
Should they be taken at regular intervals throughout the run or delayed towards the second half of the run?
I appreciate this will vary depending on effort and fitness; I am currently using a couple of gels and a bottle of sports drink to get me through a 19.5 mile three and a quarter hour run although the last 3 or 4 miles are still a real struggle.

2 Answers 2


The standard advice is:

  • a good meal 3 hours before race/training
  • refuel (like a small gel+water) 20 minutes before start
  • begin fueling 15 minutes after you start
  • hydrate every 15-20 minutes
  • use bars/gels/drinks every 10-30 minutes

Another thing is that you can calculate how many calories you'll burn and be sure to get that much from your gels/drinks in regular intervals.

Generally you have to try and see what works for you.

(I don't know how well are all these documented but they get used a lot)

Be careful

when running for 2+ hours you may refuel too little but you may also do so too much: don't drink too much, don't refuel too much; it's dangerous.

  • how do you carry it? I would like to run these lengths, but carrying water seems counter intuitive.
    – Mild Fuzz
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 16:34
  • @Mild: 1) You can schedule your stops where there will be water 2) You can run a circuit where you leave water at the start 3) there are special "fuel belts".
    – Eelvex
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 16:38
  • @Mild One of these types of bottles is best: jjbsports.com/pws/ProductDetails.ice?ProductID=10929 plus your own homemade isotonic drink
    – Chris S
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 12:10
  • homemade isotonic drink? got a good recipe?
    – Mild Fuzz
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 15:30
  • I carry one or two bottles with hand straps: amzn.to/iEVXeN For self-supported runs over 20 miles, I run with a vest: amzn.to/lugai3 I like the bottle better. You get used to either. I carry gels in the bottle pouches. Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 23:37

This article says:

  • a mix of carbs, proteins, and healthy fat 30-60 min. before running
  • 100-200 calories per hour during your run (whether with gel packs, snacks, or sports drinks)
  • refuel within 30 minutes after the run with 8-12 oz of a sports drink

I personally think GU isn't very appetizing and would opt for packets of honey instead. Although honey won't have sodium and potassium like you find in gel packs.

I found an interesting study and an article that suggests training your body to tap into your fat stores.

  • the study says to create a condition where your body is used to using fat stores:

    1. Train at the top of your fat-burning zone (run without going anaerobic)
    2. Raise the lactate threshold

    It concludes that "before a long race or run you will have more endurance and perform better if you eat a meal containing carbohydrate two to three hours before. Early in the morning, your liver glycogen stores, which supply blood glucose, have been depleted by the overnight fast. The brain and nervous system rely on blood glucose for energy. If you start a marathon without replenishing these stores, you will bonk. The two-hour time interval is sufficient to reduce blood glucose levels back to normal and restore fat metabolism."

  • the article mentions a "superstarch" drink UCAN you can try to see if it doesn't wretch your stomach

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