Fuelling Change: A new solution for endurance runners?

Marathon des Sables

Two years ago I was one of the gel-sucking, jellybaby-munching, Cliff-bar-crunching endurance runners. My race fuelling plan for half marathons and marathons meant strapping a fistful of carb gels onto my waist and hoping for the best. For ultras I’d ensure drop bags stuffed with sugary ‘energy’ foods were scattered around the course to keep me going. With every aid station on the ultras I ran choc (sorry) full of the sweet stuff, I just thought that was what runners did. I now know better.

Or at least I know what works for me better. If you love your jelly babies and warm coke then you’ll probably want to stop reading this now.

Back then my runs were like roller coaster rides. Big hits of carbs would power me in bursts but would soon be followed by crashing lows. The fix? Sink another gel, swallow another handful of sweets until eventually my stomach would rebel and the inevitable sickness would kick in. Back then I thought it was the distance making me sick. Pure physical exertion taking a natural toll on my body. But I’ve had my eyes opened, thanks to the team at the PaleoGym London.

At this year’s Marathon des Sables I tried out a new way to fuel for endurance. Instead of eating my race fuel, I drank it. For each 10-12km between checkpoints I’d have one 700ml bottle with a mix of two new products – Poliquin Rise and Generation UCAN.

I won’t lie I was worried that this strange pink drink concoction wouldn’t have the pull to get me through the challenges of an extreme desert ultra but what I found was completely the opposite. But before I go into what I found, I’m going to give you the sales jargon.

“Poliquin Rise has a mix of nutrients that support the body’s ability to adapt to the biochemical requirements necessary for increased performance during a workout regimen or exercise program. Rise promotes hydration, nutrient balance, protein anabolism, and pH balance, all necessary to maintain focus and sustained energy levels, especially for intense training, but can also benefit those participating in moderate exercise.”

Meanwhile, Generation UCAN is a new gluten free, complex carbohydrate that avoids the insulin spikes that can cause that crashing feeling.  According to the website, it’s “powered by SuperStarch a healthy,natural and gluten free innovation in carbohydrate nutrition. Superstarch is a complex carbohydrate (derived from non-GMO corn) that uniquely stabilises blood sugar and causes virtually no reaction from the fat storage hormone, insulin.”

Now, I’m not one to buy into sports nutrition jargon but what I do know is that during the 156 miles of the Marathon des Sables, in conditions that would put most fuelling plans to the test, I didn’t suffer a single crash. I had no stomach upsets. What I got was an even, steady flow of energy that definitely helped me finish in the Top 100 in my first outing in the desert.

To tell the truth I wasn’t expecting things to go that smoothly. Still cynical after the MDS I decided to try it out over the marathon distance. Nine days later at the Boston Marathon I did exactly the same. Carrying one bottle to sip for each 45 mins to an hour. For the first time ever over 26.2 miles my stomach was silent. The sickness I’ve had in all nineteen marathons before banished by a bottle.

Just to make sure I tried it again during the London Marathon six days after Boston. Sure enough, all I got was nice, even energy from start to finish.

If this reads like a ringing endorsement, well that’s exactly what it is. I’m a complete convert. My days of munching sweets and forcing down high sugar flapjacks are over. From now on I’m bottle fed all the way.

The PaleoGym London are experts in preparing for endurance events. Crafting complete training and nutrition plans for everything from running a sub-3-hour marathon to desert ultra.