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Gel, Bar or Drink - Which One Is Best For Me?


Eenie meenie miney mo … which gel, bar or drink will help me run fast? Is this how you feel when choosing the right gel, bar or drink during your full or half marathon? Sometimes it can feel confusing when you are trying to decide your nutrition plan for the long race. Congratulations on taking the time to decide which gel, bar or drink will be the right one for you. That is the most important step!

If you wait until the morning of your full or half marathon to choose what gel or bar you are going to use, you may run into trouble. Race days can cause jitters which may upset your digestive system, so it’s important to train with your nutrition plan.


There are several to choose from, but here are a few tips: Generally, a packet of gel has approximately 100 calories, includes about 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrates and has sodium and potassium. One ingredient that may help you decide which one to choose is the sugar. Some gel packs may have up to 11 or 12 grams of sugar while others have just 5 or 6 grams. You can also review the additional ingredients as some have caffeine and others do not. A little caffeine may boost your performance but make sure to train with it so you know what to expect come race day. In addition, if you have food allergies, read the label closely.


You have just as many choices with bars as you do gels. Since bars take a bit more to digest than a gel pack, be sure you practice a few times with these during your training runs. Decide how much of the bar your body needs at a time to keep you from cramping, provide energy and still refrain from digestive upset. As with gels, there are no "one size fits all" with these. One suggestion is to break or cut the bar into smaller, manageable pieces and put in snack bags so you can easily pull them out from your pocket or hydration belt.


Like with the gel and bar, you must plan and practice your fluid intake as well. Since both provide the needed nutrients during the run to, hopefully, keep you from bonking, water is the best choice. If you plan to primarily use fluid for your hydration plan, then you may want to consider a sports drink you can tolerate since it will provide you with the needed carbohydrates and electrolytes. If you thought you had a variety of flavor choices with the gels, you have just as many, if not more, choices with sports drinks. Again, the flavor preference is individual. Unless you plan to have a band wagon of fans hand you your favorite sports drink during the race, you may want to use a hydration belt or vest. Practice wearing one of these during a couple of your training runs. Since the hydration stations for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon are generally every 1 to 1.5 miles in marathons and half-marathons, practice drinking about 2 to 4 oz. every mile or two. 

Regardless of which nutrition plan you choose, it may help your race day results if you journal what you did during the long training runs. What product(s) did you use, how often did you take it and how did your body feel during the run and in the recovery phase are just a few things you may want to record to refer to for future runs. 

Good luck training all those miles on your feet, but don't forget to train your gut too! 

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