Marathon Fueling

So I'm thinking about doing my first marathon this year and while I'm not at the point yet in my training where I need to take on fuel during my runs, at some stage I will.  I know a lot of people use gels and energy drinks, and I bought some Clifs Shot Bloks a while back for a half marathon I was supposed to do, but never got around to trying as I didn't do the race.  I think these will be out of date on the 1st of May as well and my marathon isn't until October, although I can't seem to see if the date is best before or use by.

Anyway, I was wondering if it's possible to do a marathon without taking on gels and sports drinks and instead taking, I guess "normal" food and drink?  I was thinking that back in the day, they probably didn't have energy gels and drinks and probably took on "normal" stuff.

Like in my head I was thinking "Why take a gel, just take some jelly babies or something instead?"  Or "drink some flat coke or fanta rather than an energy drink?"

Anyway as you can probably tell I don't have much of an idea about race drinks and nutrition.  I was just thinking of being able to take something that is easy on the stomach and won't have my shorts around my ankles every 10 minutes begging for forgiveness.



  • Energy gels and drinks should anyway be easy on the stomach, but you should experiment on your long runs to be sure a particular brand suits you. The mix of complex and simple carbs varies a bit, and some might have extras like caffeine. As for the expiry date on the Clif Shots I wouldn't worry too much if you start using them up now. After all, sugar is used as a preservative in high concentrations like jam.

    Some "normal" food would be perfectly OK but other types would be more of a load on your stomach than you want. I'd stay away from fats and proteins and stick to carbs of varying complexity, e.g., cooked potato with a bit of salt on, jelly babies (if you class them as normal food?), fruit, raisins, etc.

    Yes, it's perfectly possible to do without entirely - even drinks were not allowed at one time, it's just a matter of where to draw the line. You'll certainly do better if you take on some carbs and water during a mara. Little and often for both rather than big infrequent intakes.

  • To be honest I was thinking of just drinking flat coke/fanta and water and maybe having jelly babies! image
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