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Competitive Running

How many sport gels to take during a marathon?

asked about 6 years ago | Report

I realize everyone's needs are different, but approximately how many 100 calorie GU's should one aim to consume during a marathon? Typically, when I run a half marathon I usually go through one or two. Would it be a fair assumption that I'd nee about 3 or 4?

76 answers

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  • This depends on the person, but you should remember that there is caffeine in those things, and caffeine is good. Also of note, and I believe posted a few months ago was that Lance Armstrong, running the New York marathon, consumed 1 Gu every 12 minutes, so he had about 13 that race.
    So, the mantra is train like you race. On 3 different long runs, try one every 45 minutes one every 30 minutes, and one every 20 minutes. The calories and caffeine aren't going to hurt you, unless having the Gu in your stomach makes you sick. So you're free to pick what works best.
    Personally, I fire one back every 25-30 minutes for any run over 10 miles.

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • I carried two with me this past Saturday, and they were handing them out at 20, so I ate three total... I probably coulda used a fourth one. Brad is right... play around with it a bit. Ironically I think the slower runners end up needing more since they are running for a longer period of time. Lance firing one back every 12 minutes seems a bit extreme to me... I'm fairly certain I'd blow chow if I did that... But everyone is different. I think the 45 minute bench mark Brad mentions is a good starting point.

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • I take one every 4 miles

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • 1 every 4-6 miles works for me. But as the others have said, play around with it a bit on your long runs to see what works for you.

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • from what i remember...the body can normally store about 1700 calories...and burns about 100 per mile...therefore, if you eat nothing prior to mile 17 you'll pretty much be depleted there. so...the goal is to keep fueled up (duh!) to avoid the bonk. i eat nothing for the first hour...then take one/two clifshots (my gel of preference) or shotblox every hour,.i also eat an english mars bar (yes, they ARE different than american mars bars!), usually at mile 17 for an extra boost...but that's just my goofy ritual)

    answered about 6 years ago |edited about 6 years ago |Report

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  • I take one per hour, so yes, your assumption sounds good to me.

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • 4 for me.

    I'd definitely barf if I ate 13 in one marathon. That sounds more like a bet/dare than a fueling strategy.

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • I ate one every five miles up until mile 20 in the Philly marathon. I had one more available and I think I should've eaten it at about mile 23.

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • I eat one about 15-20 before starting out on a long run (anything over about 8 miles) and then one every 45. Works great for me

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • I personally use the Gu gels and I like to take them every 45 mins. But I agree with the others and say that you would want to try it out on your long runs and see how it works for you.

    Cheers

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • Seems the rule of thumb is 30 - 45 minutes, its really up to your digestive systems tolerance. Few people mentioned the energy boost from the caffeine. I can only handle so much GU but want the caffeine, so I'll pop a No-Doze in the run.

    answered about 6 years ago |Report

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  • I typically have one every 35-45 minutes. If the marathon has water/aid every 2-3 mile then I would plan mine to be every other water break. It is important for me to remember to start taking the GU before I am hungry or feel like I need it. It is easier to take it early then to try to recover from bonking. I will also sometimes carry a small cliff bar or miniature candy bar with me and sub that in for one of the Gu's.

    answered almost 7 years ago |Report

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  • They make me sick :(

    answered almost 7 years ago |Report

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  • Before worrying about sports gels I think you should try a carbo-loading "secret" that you can read about here: http://tinyurl.com/9e88st. The University of Western Australia study shows this really works and I know it kept me from hitting the wall in my last marathon. On the other hand, you can eat gels as often as every 2 miles as Lance reportedly did at the NY Marathon and still hit the wall hard.

    answered almost 6 years ago |Report

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  • Marathon M.

    Did you also use the Carboforce?

    Has anybody else followed this with success?

    answered almost 6 years ago |Report

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  • For what it's worth, I'm just starting to play around with gels. I specifically use caffeine-free ones. That might seem counterintuitive, but I have a caffeine-free diet and I think gels would hype me in a bad way. As for how often, I've been playing with one every hour and that worked well for my 20-mile training run. On the marathon, I'm going to do one every hour and then one more at 3:30 because I plan on coming in under 4 hours. So that would be four gels for a marathon. The run is in two weeks, so I'll let you know how that plan played out.

    answered almost 6 years ago |Report

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  • It's a personal thing - I'd incorporate into your long practice runs and see what you can do. In my first marathon, I took 6 and used them all - as well as grabbing what I could along the way. I BONKED! Last year, as I ran half-marathons, I began experimenting with 1 gel immediately before every water station (approximately 2 miles). For me, it worked great. Feedback from lots of other folks, though, indicates that many folks' digestive systems couldn't handle this (I don't drink sports drinks in races).

    answered almost 6 years ago |Report

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  • When I do a long run of 20-mles I use one at mile 6, 12, and 18. In a Marathon I would probably use one at mile 24 to make 4-total. Good-Luck with your training.
    God Bless. +

    answered almost 6 years ago |Report

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  • I'm in the 'every five miles' camp (or thereabouts...depends on the water stop locations). My wife takes tootsie rolls, same idea I guess. I just don't like to chew while I run - too much thinking for me.

    answered almost 6 years ago |Report

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  • I'm going to try taking one every 5 miles to see how that works out this Sunday. I did not have enough in me during my 20 mile run 2 weeks ago and I think I had one at 9 and one at 14.

    answered almost 6 years ago |Report

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  • It all comes down to carbohydrate management, no matter if you are getting it from GU, Gatorade, jelly beans or Fig Newtons or some combination. I think the rule of thumb is that you need about 40 to 50 grams of carbs per hour. So, if you are just getting your carbs from the GU, that would be about 2 packs per hour. If you are taking 16oz of Gatorade an hour, which is about 28g of carbs (like 4 water stops, 4oz each per hour), then maybe you need to supplement one GU per hour. You need to figure out what works best for you and your intestines. Carbohydrate management.

    answered almost 6 years ago |Report

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  • I used 5 cliff shots packs during my marathon. I took the first one at mile 7 at the aid station then one at every other aid station after that. I drank the full cup of water with the packs and drank the gatorade any other time. I had taken 6 packs with me but only used the 5 and glad I did. I will use 5-6 again this year as well.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • Just as an update.

    I took 5 GU's during my last marathon. They were corresponding with the water stops around miles 5, 10, 15, 20, 24. I also took at least water or gatorade (sometimes both) at every water stop after mile 5.

    I had the best race of my life. I don't know if that was the reason, but i'm sure it played a big role.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • it depend upon how many calories you burn.
    How long are you going to be out there?
    it is all relative
    for me ...marathon alone Gu ever 4 or 5 miles..finish time ~3:06
    marathon as part of an IM race 6 to 8 GUs total ...finish time for run split ~3:36

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • I've run only two Marathons, so I'm not an experienced runner. I ran my 2nd Marathon yesterday. I took 2 GU's, one at 21k and one at 30k and I was fine. I never take GU's during my training runs, because I think that my body has to learn to run with few carbohydrates and to develop running economy. But it's just me...

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • the coach for one of our programs wants them training for long runs with very few gels. I am going to try this. I know I am good for 10 without a gel in training but racing is another matter. I do tend to get low blood sugar. There is this theory about fat burning and glycogen stores.I saw an article from marathonguide.com

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • my last half I did two GUs and they didn't go down as well as they usually do and my stomach felt horrible after the race. It could also have been the intensity I finished. The GUs were my usual chocolate flavor but they tasted too sweet for some reason. I do know I didn't get the GU in before the water stop. I usually GU before and drink a full cup of water at the stops.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • Ok, I plan on taking using about 4-5 GU's at my upcoming marathon... my problem is that it is out of town, and I don't have anyone to hand me some during the race..... so should I just hold them the whole time.....I've heard of pinning them to your shirt, but I think that would really bother me

    answered over 5 years ago |edited over 5 years ago |Report

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  • @Karolien. I actually pinned mine (5 total) to the inside of my shorts. It may not work for everyone, but it did for me.
    You can find little belts that gels clip into or even the ones with an expandable pocket. If you get one, make sure to try it out well in advance of race day.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • I use gels and I find around mile 5-6, I need to start taking one gel packet every 2 miles. I also carry Zero sports drink....I do not like stopping at the water stations, and usually only need to in the last 6 miles.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • I typically have 1 or maybe 2 during a full marathon and that's enough to make me nauseated, even with plenty of water. I'm starting to enjoy Bloks instead.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • I am totally confused with how many GU's I need. Today I tried the Hammer Gel for the first time and it ended up in the trash. Just a nasty flavor. I am thinking for my half marathon to have at least 2 GU's plus lots of water and gatorade! I agree that 1 every 12 minutes seems excessive!! What up Lance?

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • definately depends on your body preferance! The most I've ever gotten down during a marathon was 3/4 of one GU. Although I've found significant benefits for me using GU instead of shot Blocks.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • I only take gels on my long runs, if I plan a 12-13 mile run - I'd take only one and split it into four (mile 4, 6, 8, 10). So if I'm thinking of 26.2 then I'd take three even though the 3rd one may not be finished.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • I agree with the comment that how you use gels in training mimic how you use them to race. For me, don;t train with them, so I don't race with them. I think you gotta train the body for them as Lance probably eats them all the time and is used to the process. I've known 2.30 marathoners who can't handle them.

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • Its weird ...I do Half Marathons and do one at 3,6,9and I notice that some runners dont take any.I thought I were one on the few..The little bastards are expensive..Whats new...

    answered over 5 years ago |edited over 5 years ago |Report

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  • For me, maybe three for a full marathon. I usually eat a Clif Bar one or two hours before the race, and plan on one gel at 1 hr, 2 hr, and 3 hr, into the race. I also drink about 16 oz of Hammer Perpetuem (about 250 cal), and probably 32 oz of water during the race if it's cool; more if it's warmer (above ~ 60 degF).

    answered over 5 years ago |Report

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  • Joe
    Joe Sendmail

    Took 5 at last marathon and could have one with another 1. Planning for 8 at next marathon. Every water stop bar the 1st.

    answered about 5 years ago |Report

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  • I carried a mini-Clif bar with me that I nibbled on throughout the race, and did one GU at about mile 15 or so. I probably could have used one more - I got tired on the last 2 miles, but wouldnt call it the "bonk" - just tired from running 24 miles :)

    answered about 5 years ago |Report

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  • During my last Marathon I took 1 GU 15 min Prior, then I took 4 GU during the Marathon; 1 every 5 miles up to Mile 20. That worked out very well for me, but like you said everyone is different.

    From what I read some of this is also based on your size/weight. The bigger you are/the more you weigh the more calories you will burn and the more fuel you need to replenish yourself.

    answered about 5 years ago |Report

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  • Hi Kirsten,

    I think what you assume is fair and what I would suggest. Personally, I think the actual suggested amount based on the package would be too much. I mean really, I couldn't imaging putting anymore into my body without killing my stomach. Of course this is just my opinion...

    I think it is really important to make sure you have a good carb dinner one or two nights before and a good breakfast the day of.

    Good luck!

    answered almost 5 years ago |Report

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  • Typically, I have one about 15 minutes before the race. Then I consume one every 45 minutes after that. I make sure to hydrate right after 1)to make sure that it goes down 2)so it doesn't stick to my teeth.

    To tell you to have 4 or 5 is not accurate as it all depends on how long you are going to be out there running, a good gauge is time, 45 minutes is usually what I go with.

    Remember to train with nutrition so that your body tells you if it is what it likes or not.

    answered almost 5 years ago |Report

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  • 2.7

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • A bag of jelly lollies (dinosaurs to be specific!) worked for me on my one and only marathon to date. Started after the half way mark and it did the trick.

    With adequate training a full tank should be able to get you to through HM

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • Definitely you don't want to try out ANY recommendation on your next marathon; instead you should experiment on long training runs which come closest to matching your intended level of exertion. Everyone's different, as an amount of sports gel which cause many to vomit causes me (and evidently Lance Armstrong :-) little problem. For myself, beginning 5-minutes before the marathon begins, and at every 3-miles I take a Gu Roctane Orange-Vanilla sports gel. Consequently, I carry nine, plus one as spare to make ten. I've successfully used this fueling strategy most recently last week in Boston during the marathon, where I P.R.d!

    While being completely honest I feel that my much better fitness level much better explains my success than my Roctane consumption, I'm nevertheless convinced that we tend to bonk after we've depleted glycogen from our active muscles - and as-such on race day consuming increased amounts of sugars - so long as they're well tolerated by the stomach with no G.I. issues - is a good thing. I like the Roctane Orange-Vanilla as besides the 100 calories of sugars each packet also provides a small amount of caffeine (which helps concentration and performance), electrolytes and amino acids (which helps the body quickly repar muscle tissue damage).

    While I've been successful with ten Roctanes per marathon I personally need to work harder to consume enough fluids - something I tend not to do without conscious effort. Of course here again one needs to have a feel for one's sweat rate (which is affected both by the temperature, the humidity and the exertion level), so-as not to over-do it, so experimentation during your long training runs is key.

    Good luck!

    answered over 4 years ago |edited over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I usually don't take anything for a half marathon, but if doing a full marathon I would take one around mile 12 and another around mile 18-20ish. Everyone responds to gels differently though. Play around with your intake during long runs.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • 200 calories/hour tops but for a marathon I'd use none. Try VESPA Amino Acid Supplements instead and an OFM training plan. Train your body to burn fat and you won't have to worry about the bonk at mile 20, . .

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • 4-5. I take one each 5 miles.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I will be running my first marathon in December and start the 18 week novice Hal Higdon training program in August. I have only run short distances to date (5K's and 10K in a few weeks) and have not had to worry about GU and hydration during my training runs. If I am new... any advice on when or what point to start training with GU or something similar?

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I plan to take one at mile 5, 9, 14, 18, and 22, 500 calories. For me, calories from the gu should be enough to minimize chance of 'wall' assuming carb stores are maxed on race morning.

    answered over 4 years ago |edited over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I take 3. Most elite runners take zero.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • Train properly, run a well supported marathon and trained properly are the top three pieces of advice I have learned over the years. In the past I used gels to try to solve a problem and/or depend on them to bail me out of a difficult part of a race. The conclusion that I have come to is the following: Train properly and do not go out too fast or over estimate your own current ability on that day under those conditions. If you follow the instructions of the gel manufactures you should be safe and they are to take one every 30 to 60 minutes. Don't try to mimic the consumption of Lance Armstrong of one every 12 minutes, you are not likely to be helping but hurting yourself. They want you to take the gel with water. Mixing the gel and water together you obtain the equivalence of a sports drink. Since a well supported marathon has both water and sports drinks why should anyone carry gels with them? I alternate water and sports drink at every other aid station and no longer carry any gels. I also think a big blast of sugar may feel good but only last a short period of time and tends to make me sick and decrease my overall performance. Run smoothly and do not do anything that shocks the system.
    Thomas 2:55 marathoner

    answered over 4 years ago |edited over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I'm in the every 5-6 mile camp. but I also sometimes use other things like pretzels or animal crackers or sour patch kids which are not exactly electrolyte balanced, but very nice.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I find that my digestive system is easily upset, so for me I can do a hard half with 1/2 of a GU and feel perfect. More than that and I'll ill. So, for me, in a full marathon, I'll take 2 GU's along and likely only eat one entire packet.

    answered over 4 years ago |edited over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I took 5 energy gels with me in my First Marathon but ended up giving 2 of them to my friend who forgot his :-( I could have done with more expecially in the last 6 miles where I found it very tough.
    You can read about my first marathon here> http://www.fitness21.co.uk/?p=37

    answered about 4 years ago |Report

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  • I take one at mile 4-5 for races over 6-7 miles. I took one at mile 6.5 during my half marathon last month. I guess it depends on the person.

    answered about 4 years ago |Report

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  • I usually take one every miles which works out to about every other water stop.

    answered almost 4 years ago |Report

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  • When I did my marathon trainings, I thought one every 45 minutes was right, but when time came for my 1st marathon, that turned out to be wrong because I got a bloated feeling and stomach cramps. Really hampered me. Also that night I had the runs. Then I started Googling "top 10 marathon mistakes" and I saw some postings about taking too many gels too often.

    Since then, I've learned that I can take one every 60 minutes, and to avoid pure water. That combo of too many gels and pure water (not sports drink) can make you feel bloated. Everyone is different, so it's a matter of trial and error.

    answered almost 4 years ago |Report

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  • I dont train with any carb intake at all during my training runs, I do eat a decent breakfast before a LSR, and bassed on that, my body stores, and burning fat reserves i can 'easily' manage a 3.5hr LSR at a good Aerobic pace.

    During my marathon I plan to take 4 gels in total. 1 just prior to the start then at 15, 25 & 35km. I have tested this a couple of times during training and it has worked really well.

    Ultimatel each of us is an experiment of one, what works for me (i know not everyone can manage an LSR in training without fuel) may not work for anyone else, so the golden rule of marathoning allways applies. DONT DO ANYTHING YOU HAVENT TRIED IN TRAINING!

    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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  • First off.. how soon is your marathon? If it is soon, stick with the interval of time/distance between gels that you had.

    If you have time, work on spacing them out. You are teaching your body that it does not need to use the glycogen stores. When training with my easy runs at 8:30 pace, I take one every 7-8 miles... on race day, I do it every 6.. this way my body is used to it being longer and is working efficiently, but on race day, I eat the gu early so I take one before I "need" it as I'm not training my body that day, I'm racing and probably running at a harder effort.

    I only use one in a half, after mile 7.

    Again - if your race is soon - do what you have done in training. Good luck!

    Just noticed someone said elites take zero.. not true. They take something at least twice, once usually around mile 10. They have sports bottles that they create their own mix in - often gu with water, etc. Something they train with that is mixed up just for them. They are on a special table at a water stop that they grab. There is a lot of science they put in that bottle.

    answered over 3 years ago |edited over 3 years ago |Report

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  • @Karolien - I wear shorts that will hold 2 and then tuck a couple more in my sports bra (be sure to make sure the packet is bent away from you or you will get cuts from them rubbing and eat those first. I got the idea when I saw a semi-elite woman blaze by at mile 10 with no place to put them and silver coming out of her bra. Saw her again at 22 and there were a lot less of them. haha! It has worked well for me.

    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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  • I did my first marathon just over a week ago. I had brought along 6 gels (to be sure) and I used 4.

    Eoin

    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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  • No more than 1 every 45 minutes or so (for me). In ultras if I'm drinking 1st Endurance EFS I can get by with far fewer gels. Something to look into.

    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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  • Not all Gels have Caffeine. Caffeine before a marathon will dehydrate you (stimulate the kidneys), and caffeine and/or too much or too high a concentration of GU/sports drinks can cause GI upset (the trots). Caffeine does not have those effects once you get going. I shoot for along with the 700 or so calories starting with a GU about mile 11, winding up with a total of 4, the other 300 calories coming from sports drink along the way. If you are attacking hills or surging, or if it's rolling hills, you will need to take on more calories, I carry 3 or 4, and will grab a couple on the way if I need them. Don't count on finding them in small obscure races.

    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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  • I think it says one before and then one every 45 mins. That's what I've been doing and it works well. Nutrition is ten times more important in a marathon than half.

    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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  • I used to take one after about 1.5 hrs and then one every 45 min or so after that. Then I switched to a sports drink and I don't take gels at all! (much easier on my stomach) Everyone is different--so be sure to practice in your training runs!

    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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  • full marathon I will be bring 8 Gel

    answered over 3 years ago |Report

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  • I'm not a very large mammal- about 115 pounds, 5'4". I do Reliv Innergize instead of Gatorade- 12 oz if it's a 7-10 mile race, 24 Oz if it's a half. I just did a 12 mile for the first time with the chews, I started at mile 6 and one every mile or so, so I finished one packet total.. I did great. The Innergize absorbs and digests so much better than Gatorade for me and I don't bonk on it.

    When I used gu in my last 2 marathons, I did 1/2 the packet at 8 miles and then 1/2 every 4 miles plus gatorade. I think I also nibbled on a Luna bar toward the end.

    answered about 3 years ago |Report

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  • After a lot of experimentation I eat one every four miles, for a total of six in a marathon. But I am a 180 lb man. If you are smaller you'd need less.

    answered about 3 years ago |Report

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  • I take one every 5 miles on any run of 10 miles or more. I took 5 with me to London, managed to drop 2 of them but, there were gel stations on the route so took 5 total over the distance. The 2 from the stations weren't my usual brand but, seemed to do the trick.

    Everyone is different though. You need to experiment and see what works for you.

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • Wow, tons of opinions on this, but I guess that's not surprising considering that this tends to vary from one person to the next. I take one every 45-60min, and I avoid gels with caffeine because they cause the tendons in my knees and ankles to tighten up. I also switch from gatorade to nuun if I'm using gels because gatorade and gels don't mix well for me.

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • My last two marathons I used six PowerGels: mile 5, 9, 13, 16, 19, 22, always with water or other electrolyte drink. But it depends on your training - experiment during training to find what works most efficiently for your body.

    answered almost 2 years ago |Report

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  • I say none. Old school for me is where it's at. I have a friend that never took any gels, and never drank anything but water back in the day. He clocked a 2:29 Marathon. I also only drink water, but that's only because I love water. I don't like sports gels, and sports drinks only after I finish the race. I've tried both during long runs, but I've never caught on. Every runner is a bit different in his/her own right I guess. (I just make sure I'm well hydrated, and have eaten plenty the week before the race).
    Awesome Post!!! God Bless..+ Jimmy. ( =

    answered almost 2 years ago |Report

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  • bump to the top

    answered over 1 year ago |Report

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