Landing on the Sweat Spot- Long Run Fuel
I don't think I've ever been so excited to do a long training run as I was today. The cause? Trying a new fuel. Maybe not so smart for a run as long as 18 miles, but I wanted to test on something where I'd need to fuel several times, to see if this product could work for me in my 6 hour ultra race in 3 weeks. Which product?
Vitargo is "a fast and clean carbohydrate used to fuel performance and recovery," according to the product's website. It's a sugar-free carb made from barley starch. It moves through the stomach faster than other forms of carbs, which makes it easier to digest and quicker to enter the muscles for fuel. And that means less GI issues, less bloat, and more calories can be taken in during long endurance efforts.
I found almost from the beginning of marathon training that gels didn't work for me. I've always had a problem eating foods high in sugar-- more than a piece or two of candy upsets my stomach. Gels simply didn't work for me. I've tried the following over my years of marathon training:
Sport Beans (made by Jelly Belly, if that gives you any indication of how nutritionally sound they are) seemed to be ok, but they are a little sticky and really chewy. They left a really sweet aftertaste, so I couldn't eat more than a packet spread out over the course of a run, which limits how far I could go fueled by them.
Hammer Gels, which are a complex form of carbohydrate with amino acids, seemed to be better on my stomach, but still after a few, I was left with that sweet taste in my mouth-- not as sweet as the typical gels. They are high in sugar and fairly low in calories, so I needed several to fuel a long run-- more than my stomach could handle.
Stinger Waffles may just be my favorite-- they're like cookies! The problem is that they are pretty large in diameter and quite crumbly, so depending on how you store them, they may completely fall apart when it's time to eat them. I've lost more than one chunk of my precious waffles on runs. And that's just sad!
Clif Bloks worked fairly well. But again, after a few, I was left with that super sweet aftertaste and stomach upset after a few hours of fueling with them.
When I flirted with the low carb/high fat diet, I even began using Justin's nut butter packets. Vanilla Almond is my favorite because it contains some sugar along with the high fat. These worked great for me in obstacle course races where my pace was slowed by obstacles. But, as you might imagine, you've got to have plenty of water and patience to eat nut butter on the run.
Clif Bars, Kind Bars, Rxbar and Larabars are my latest favorites. With Clif coming in the lead because of the higher sugar content. However, depending on the flavor, the sugar can become too much for my tummy. The Kind Bars come in savory flavors, like hickory smoked almond and honey mustard pretzel-- so yummy. Rxbars have a very chewy texture, so are harder to eat on the run. The Kind, Larabars, and Rxbars are made with real ingredients-- rare in products used to fuel long runs. But I was beginning to feel as though the real food was just sitting on my stomach during the really long runs.
Back to Vitargo. This is a big win for me. With the GI issues I've been having lately, eating on the run hasn't been at all comfortable. So, I've known for awhile that I need to find something I can drink for calories. Vitargo seems to be it.
Today I ran 18 miles with 1 scoop of fruit punch-flavored Vitargo mixed in 6 oz of water. That was 140 calories and 35 g of carbs. I carried another scoop with me to refill. After 15 miles, I had finished my 1 scoop, which I was realizing was not nearly enough calories. I attempted to mix about 1/4 of the powder that I had brought, which didn't work well at all. According to the packaging, to properly mix the powder with water, you should use a blender. Because of the nature of the carb, the liquid is very thick and the powder tends to clump. You have to use a blender bottle or an actual blender to fully mix the drink, which seems to be the only drawback to using this on the run.
I was so pleased-- no GI issues, texture was fine, taste was fine (although I do plan to buy some of the plain flavor to cut the fruit punch taste). I felt great. No bonking. No sugar highs and lows. No bloating or stomach upset. Next time, I'm going to try mixing a thicker nearly gel-like consistency, so that I can get more calories in. At least for now, Vitargo seems to be the sweet spot for me.