This little review of InsideTracker is both for you and for me.
For you, it gives a peek into the InsideTracker process.
For me, it helps me work out the results and plan of action.
What it is
Insidetracker is a comprehensive blood test.
Not only that, but they give you the steps to help improve you results, in easy to understand ways. This is where it has differed from tests I’ve done in the past that mail me the results and nothing else.
Why get it done
If you’re simply curious about your health status, a blood test can be a nice way to look inside to see what’s going on internally and with your diet, health, etc. You may feel fine, but who knows how you could feel if you got that Vitamin D deficiency both detected and solved!
In my case, I got it done for primarily my running performance. People spend $100-$600 on GPS watches every day without hesitation But, those don’t actually make you faster. A gps simply tracks what you’re already doing but does not actually improve your running. If it did, USA amateurs and elites would be running faster now then 30 years ago (and we’re slower as a whole).
But, determining that you’re deficient or excessive in something and fixing that…doing this will improve both your health and athletics! Forget the next GPS watch upgrade, get your blood tested.
How it Starts
It’s like ordering anything else online, select the level of testing you wish to have done and order. You either go into a location to be tested or they can come to you. No more than a week later you receive the results via email.
Getting the results
I had the results within 3 days I think, which is crazy. I’ve gotten my blood tested before and it took at least a week every time.
You get this little email titled Your Blood Test Results are In and it’s a little scary. I didn’t open the message for a while, I was nervous. I did not get the test done because I felt ill or in dis-ease, but you never know how you actually are.
Once you have the Results
This was the cool part.
It gives you the results and you select what and how you want to work on.
Let’s say X is low. They lay out different reasons it could be this way and various methods of solving it. You select the course of action that works best for you. This varies from supplements, sleep, stress management, to foods you should try to include in your diet.
What I got tested
The test I subscribed to was the most comprehensive. It looked at:
What I’m doing right now
Here is the current state of my training
So, I know you want to know 😉
Almost everything was within the recommended range with a few being just outside those ranges, which is fantastic.
There are a number of results that may need addressed:
Let’s start with White Blood Cell count.
This was just outside of the optimal range. Sam Wittenberg, MD and multiple Boston Marathon qualifier says “there are several literature reports of mildly low white blood cell counts in endurance runners. These low WBC were not associated with impaired ability to fight infection.”
From the authors of Lower white blood cell counts in elite athletes training for highly aerobic sports they state “The lower white cell counts in athletes in aerobic sports probably represent an adaptive response, not underlying pathology.”.
So, I’m not terribly concerned with this slightly low WBC count. I’m in a period of higher than normal in the past training that I certainly do not plan on continuing without any periods of rest.
Overtraining & Stress Indicators
So, I’m running a lot.
As of writing this, for the last 13 weeks I’ve averaged 9:15 hours of running weekly, with every 4th week being within the 6-7 hour range and the others being 10-11 hours. I’m feeling great and my running is going very well.
The lab results under the stress and overtraining categories are a bit outside of the optimal ranges.
This also includes free testosterone:cortisol ratio, testosterone:cortisol ratio, cortisol, testosterone (athletic performance).
I’ve been reading scholarly articles to articles from doctors to athletes that have dealt with these results in the past.
My overall thoughts on my results are:
Basically, what my results say is that I’m in a period of high training load and the results are basically normal and expected for this. I’m not experiencing low libido, erectile dysfunction, loss of pubic/facial/ancillary hair. My energy levels feel great.
While my testosterone is optimal, my free testosterone is a bit low. One author made a comment that really stuck out to me about low testosterone, and it was that “it’s a normal response to high volume endurance training” and then suggested to cut volume by about 40% and do some heavy lifting every 2-3 days. This is important because if the levels are simply due to training load (which I expect is the case) they will all bounce back after a few weeks of lower volume running, more food, and lifting.
Likely I will do this after my final spring race, since I usually take a 2-3 week period of rest after a long training block followed by a big race, anyway. Maybe I’ll get tested after a period of lower training.
Someone commented that during their high volume periods they’d have lower testosterone and during their lower volume periods it would go up 3-4x, however since they were not training as much their fitness and paces would decrease since they were not as aerobically fit.
What I’m going to change
I am going to change a few things
Below are a few screenshots from my results, so you can see a bit more of InsideTracker.
All in Iron group are optimal except Ferritin is a bit low
Free Testosterone : Cortisol Ratio
Testosterone : Cortisol Ratio
I gave up coffee for a summer.
Didn’t have any alcohol for a full winter.
I’ve not eaten meat in about a decade, no problem.
However, as someone who used to weigh 80 pounds heavier, my diet has been a struggle for half my life. For the life of me, up until last year, sugar and processed junk food has gotten the best of me.
Yet, I now feel more comfortable with what I eat than I ever have before.
Here’s how I did it.
Why Avoid Added Sugar?
There are many potential reasons to avoid added sugar.
How Did I Do It?
I’ve not eaten meat in nearly a decade, giving it up was easy. Yet, for some reason I’ve never been able to shake my sugar addiction.
For the longest time, we were not able to have junk food in the house. My wife (who has no probably eating a single Oreo or truffle at a sitting) would have a hidden stash of chocolate that if discovered by me, would be gone by the end of the day.
During past attempts to eat less junk food I’ve tried numerous methods that we won’t get in to. However, in 2015 I stumbled upon a “diet” that has made me happier with what I eat or don’t eat since I lost 80 pounds in high school.
For me, the trick was two fold:
In the past I believe my limitations were much too strict, almost like a punishment.
Currently I have only a few “rules” in regards to my dietary plan, and they are:
I did not do this cold turkey, but close to it. We still had food in the house that did contain sugar in the first few ingredients, like ketchup. Once that was gone, we replaced such items with better options. I certainly did not want to throw out food!
Other nutrition advice
There are a few other points that have assisted me in my dietary happiness.
Mindful eating has been almost a revelation. I always try to eat until satisfied not until full and stop eating when I first feel that initial “I’m getting full” feeling. It’s ok to leave some food on the plate. This has been a challenge, but not eating to the point of fullness, being stuffed, or then being uncomfortable (hello Thanksgiving) is a huge load off of the shoulders.
I’ve cut back on my eating in the evenings. Dinner is usually my largest meal of the day, but I try to stop eating and drinking after dinner. The main purpose of this has been to improve my sleep. Laying in a quite bedroom and hearing/feeling your stomach digesting food is a real bother. Not drinking later in the evening can also prevent you from waking in the night to use the washroom, giving you a more restful sleep.
Now we’re able to have ice cream in the freezer and girl scout cookies in the cupboard. I have no probably not eating them, because I know that when my cheat day comes around I can indulge a bit (never too much). I feel relieved about my diet like a weight has lifted from my shoulders.
When avoiding food with processed sugar within the first three ingredients, you must start purchasing higher quality products. This includes better BBQ sauce, nicer mayo, and being picky about the granola you put in the shopping cart. When your ketchup now costs 2-3x more than what you used to buy, you find you both use less of it and enjoy it more. The fact that it costs more along with it being higher quality means it tastes better!
Every month it seems there is a new big supplement making the rounds on the internet and social media.
The latest is L-Carnitine, in this article.
a natural substance found in food; however, it is not considered an essential nutrient because the body can make it from the amino acids lysine and methionine.
L-carnitine is an amino acid compound that performs three very important functions that enhance athletic performance:
1. L-carnitine is THE nutrient, the “ferry” so to speak, that shuttles fatty acids from the blood into the mitochondria — the energy producing “furnaces” in the cells — so that they can be used as energy. If you want to use fat as a fuel as efficiently and effectively as possible, you need l-carnitine.
2. L-carnitine also helps to improve endurance by inhibiting the build-up of lactic acid, one of the primary causes of fatigue.
3. L-carnitine has been shown to reduce the accumulation of metabolic wastes during exercise, helping increase workload output during exercise and enhancing recovery post-exercise.
(from hammer nutrition)
Other headline substances that have been shown to make drastic fitness improvements have been Beetroot juice or powder (I just had an athlete of mine ask me about it this morning!), baking soda, and nitric oxide, the list goes on and on.
What must be noted is that nearly anything can cause an increase in performance for certain populations.
Taking someone who has a poor diet and putting them on a more well rounded nutrition plan will probably increase their time to exhaustion on a treadmill test!
Doing two time trials, one without any nutrition supplementation and one where the participants simply rinse their mouth with a carbohydrate solution, will cause an improvement.
For athletes not doing good drills or running specific strength work, the addition of plyometric drills or a few high intensity intervals causes shocking improvements in fitness.
If researchers do a test looking at nutritional supplementation but the participants go into the time trials without breakfast, they’re going to have better improvements
Who are those certain populations that I mentioned above?
The untrained / low level athletes and athletes with a deficiency in their training (nutritional or otherwise).
You must always take the results with a grain of salt! Look at what type of people were improving.
Are they getting a huge benefit from a nutritional supplement but going into the workout without breakfast? If you eat breakfast or do your training later in the day, you already have protein and fat in your system, so you likely will not reap the same rewards.
If they were to avoid caffeine for a week prior to the test caffeine may help, but caffeine may not do squat for you if you drink coffee daily.
Researchers often take people running 3x weekly and use them for studies! If you’re training 5 times a week, you’re way ahead of what some researchers may use for participant requirements.
It must also be noted that studies looking at one substrate or enzyme (like l-carnitine) do not make much sense when enzymes and substrates are only single items in a long list of reactions and processes that are required for an end result.
And let’s not forget the side-effects of such supplements.
A fast heart rate, Anxiety, Depression, Difficulty sleeping, Nausea, Restlessness, Tremors, Urinating more often, Vomiting, Drowsiness, Headaches, Irritability, Large amounts may stop the absorption of calcium and cause lead to thinning bones (osteoporosis), May lead to painful, lumpy breasts
nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, heartburn, diarrhea, and seizures. It can also cause the urine, breath, and sweat to have a “fishy” odor.
Here’s an example comparing two studies.
The study from the initial article that found an 11% increase in performance used moderately trained recreational athletes who trained 3-5 times per week.
So, would I assume any supplement that worked for that group would work for my female athlete running a 3:30 marathon or my guys running under 3:10?
This is a quote from a study on trained athletes, who took l-carnitine.
Effects of L-carnitine supplementation on physical performance and energy metabolism of endurance-trained athletes: a double-blind crossover field study.
Colombani P1, Wenk C, Kunz I, KrÃ¤henbÃ¼hl S, Kuhnt M, Arnold M, Frey-Rindova P, Frey W, Langhans W.
A double-blind crossover field study was performed to investigate the effects of acute L-carnitine supplementation on metabolism and performance of endurance-trained athletes during and after a marathon run. Seven male subjects were given supplements of 2 g L-carnitine 2 h before the start of a marathon run and again after 20 km of the run. The plasma concentration of metabolites and hormones was analysed 1 h before, immediately after and 1 h after the run, as well as the next morning after the run. In addition, the respiratory exchange ratio (R) was determined before and at the end of the run, and a submaximal performance test was completed on a treadmill the morning after the run. The administration of L-carnitine was associated with a significant increase in the plasma concentration of all analysed carnitine fractions (i.e. free carnitine, short-chain acylcarnitine, long-chain acylcarnitine, total acid soluble carnitine, total carnitine) but caused no significant change in marathon running time, in R, in the plasma concentrations of carbohydrate metabolites (glucose, lactate, pyruvate), of fat metabolites (free fatty acids, glycerol, beta-hydroxybutyrate), of hormones (insulin, glucagon, cortisol), and of enzyme activities (creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase). Moreover, there was no difference in the result of the submaximal performance test the morning after the run. In conclusion, acute administration of L-carnitine did not affect the metabolism or improve the physical performance of the endurance-trained athletes during the run and did not alter their recovery.
Remember that the people writing the articles need to generate clicks, hits, and news. It’s their job to get traffic to the site with interesting stories, even if they have to make something an interesting story! And the researchers simply may not have access to enough trained participants.
But, what if you only train 3-5 days per week at a lower level?
Frankly, you’re going to experience more gains by simply training more or better than trying to take an overpriced and potentially uncomfortable short cut.
There are no short cuts.
Put the time in, work hard, recover, repeat.
“If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry.”
One of my athletes recently asked me about my thoughts on how to stop food cravings.
I have quite a few, so thought it would be best to put it into writing.
How to deal with cravings:
1) Eat what you crave.
This is simple. If you want to run, you run. If you want to eat cheese, you eat cheese. Of course, we all wish we were like my guinea pig Gary, who won’t eat the guinea pig treats but goes crazy if he hears lettuce snap in half.
2) Eat something else.
Having healthier options available is a great way to avoid poor food choices.
This has been the biggest tool in my box for overcoming my past bingeing and purging. Being aware enough to sometimes literally tell myself “you may like this oreo for a few minutes, but afterwards you will regret you ate it” or when I have that first feeling “I’m done eating” during a meal, I stop eating instead of continue and clean the plate.
4) Are you really hungry?
This ties in to mindfulness. Am I hungry or am I bored? Maybe I’m just thirsty?
5) Have other options
Don’t like eating white bread? Buy Dave’s Killer Bread. Don’t want to eat sweets, don’t have them in the house. We very very rarely have non meal items in our house. This means if I do want something like that, I either have to make the effort to leave the house and get it or simply not eat it.
In my own life, I’ve experimented with many dietary practices. Low carb, intermittent fasting, vegan, raw vegan. I’ve suffered from bingeing and purging episodes for years. I’m happy to say I’ve not had any eating disorder practices in over a year and over the last half year I’ve basically stopped any dietary practice other than mindfulness. Being mindful of if I’m satisfied or full during a meal, having the willpower to put the fork down, being willing to recognize that my craving is not helpful and I’ll regret eating it. Being able to have 3 oreos instead of a full package.
My current diet and for the last half year has been vegetarian plus some seafood. I basically eat whatever I want whenever I want it. I do this in part because over the last 4 months I’m averaging 10-15 miles more weekly than I did last year as a whole. You gotta fuel the engine!
Something else I want to touch are on diet fads or types of diets. I’ve tried so many different eating patterns and I’m far happiest on the one I currently am on, which is no real pattern what so ever. I don’t believe I have any poor reactions to certain types of foods, so I basically can eat whatever I wish.
I was recently asked on Twitter if I have any posts on my fasted morning runs. I don’t think I do here on my new website, so thought I’d write one up quick!
For the first half of 2014 I would do almost every non-hard AM run in a fasted state, which means I would not have eaten since dinner the previous evening. I could go and do a 2 hour group trail run at 8 or 9 am and be totally fine until breakfast at 11 or noon.
There are potential benefits to such a practice:
-Doing so may increase the stress of the run. Making the run harder may increase the potential for adaptation.
-Not taking in food before a run may make you better at burning stored fat as a fuel.
-An empty stomach almost reduces your chances of GI issues during the run to zero.
-The practice may help with weight loss, since you’re using stored fat instead of eaten food.
When I was practicing intermittent fasting for much of 2014, I would not eat until noon or later on days that I did not have a hard workout. I would even run in the AM and afternoon before eating, and feel totally fine. No problems what so ever. I was still getting in at least 2000 calories daily with fewer but larger meals.
After my fall half marathon I have ended the practice of intermittent fasting and fasted AM workouts, for a few reasons:
However, there are a number of disadvantages:
-Like elevation may decrease the quality of your training, running fasted may also do the same. Your body is simply held back if it’s not fueled with high octane energy.
-I really really enjoy making and eating breakfast with my wife every morning.
-I feel eating before a run kickstarts the recovery process sooner.
The #1 reason is that my winter goal is to go into the spring being able to comfortably average ~10 miles more weekly. This means I’m currently running about 10-11 hours every week with doubles at least every other day. It’s not the mileage elites do (because I’m slower) but it’s a similar effort level and a similar time spent running. If I’m going to train like the professionals with 10+ hours of weekly running, I need to eat like them as well. I want to make sure I’m fueling and recovering as optimally as possible. Having a small omelet or breakfast burrito before a 1:10 long run means that I’m starting the recovery process right away and getting enough calories throughout the day.
Now, I’m not against fasted runs. Apparently the East Africans do them frequently. If I ran before my wife woke and before we normally have breakfast, I would probably still do them without eating beforehand.
With the winter coming to a close soon enough, many people are possibly in the midst of their base building phase and approaching more specific work to prepare for racing.
For many, race weight is likely on their mind.
If you’re looking to lose weight for health reasons, this article may not be for you. If you want to lose weight to run faster, read on!
Why a Race Weight?
If you’re looking to improve your personal records, losing some excess weight can be worth a lot.
Specifically, for each pound lost you could simply increase your pace by 1-3 seconds per mile depending on your starting weight.
To put this into a real-life example, a 150 pound man dropping to 140 would increase their pace by about 10 seconds per mile. That’s :30 over a 5k and a few minutes for a marathon simply by losing weight.
How weight loss improves your speed is two primary reasons. First is you simply have less mass to carry forward and up. Second is your body will dissipate heat more efficiently and cool you better.
What’s your ideal race weight?
Warning: This is going to be a low number!
It’s also not a number that anyone, even the elites, will weigh year round. They may only weigh this for the racing season and then will gain back some in the off-season. It also will depend on your goal races and muscle mass. Shorter distance runners tend to do better with more muscle and weight.
Running Shoe Guru’s writer Peyton Hoyal details what your ideal race weight is, quite well. Peyton suggests to take your height in inches, double it, then based on your frame:
For a 67 inch tall person with a medium frame, that come to 134 pounds at race weight.
How to reach Race Weight?!?
There is a bit of a method to running in a caloric deficit, or bringing in through diet less calories than you are using up through activity.
Even some Kenyans will spend at least the month or so before a competition in a caloric deficit, in an attempt to drop a bit of weight before the goal race.
The balance must be found in eating enough food to both lose a bit of weight slowly over time but still fuel your training so you can continue running at your high level. There are many things can can be taken into consideration for this to be done:
High Quality Food
While eating less food, focusing on nutrients is important.
Foods that are more nutrient dense basically include everything but grains and food with added sugar/fat. An issue with calorie restriction is it also restricts nutrients such as essential fat, protein, vitamin, and minerals. High quality food also tends to be rather low calorie, so you can eat more volume of food for fewer calories.
When on a calorie deficit, it’s important to fuel the exercise properly.
Try not to go into long or hard workouts without some sort of pre or intra run fueling.
The purpose here is to both fuel your body so you can perform at your max during these quality sessions, but also to prevent your body’s glycogen from getting too low during these runs. Fasted easy morning workouts are ok, however for harder sessions being in a caloric deficit may hinder your training ability.
Post Workout Food Timing
Research has shown that for recovery and most people, total daily calories is much more important than eating within that 30 minute post workout window when your body is sucking up nutrients like a dry sponge absorbs water. However, if you’re in a calorie deficit or doing another longer workout within 6-8 hours of your previous one, food timing becomes much more important.
This importance comes from a number of factors. Your primary fuel while running in fat and glycogen. Fat is a near endless supply, but glycogen needs to be restocked. Immediately after a workout your body is primarily repairing muscle and restoring glycogen better than at any other time during the day. If you eat take some food right after the run, it will go towards these two purposes, setting you up for your next workouts. Not letting your glycogen stores get too low is key, as if they get low your body will not be able to train at its fullest.
Calorie Reload Day (or weekend, or week)
This serves two purposes.
First, it gives you a higher calorie day to bump up your weekly food intake. No need to go crazy here, just don’t be in a deficit.
Second, it gives you a chance to eat some higher calorie food, a cheat meal. I suggest your cheat meal be your next full meal after your long run, as much of the calories taken in will go to glycogen replenishment (keeping it off your butt, and fueling future runs!)
You can simply do calorie reloading during periods of recover, be that easy days where you do not run as much or full weeks that you run at a lower than typical volume.
How much of a deficit?
Really, as little as possible of a deficit, this could change based on how far out you are from the goal race.
3,600 calories lost is a pound. 400-600 calories daily is a good range. Any less and your weight loss will be nil. Any more and you’re risking sacrificing your quality workouts.
There are a couple tools that make tracking calories easier.
First, is apps like LoseIt! that easily record calories intake and burned. You can scan barcodes and it will even bring up the food!
Second are measure devices. Measuring makes tracking easier! 1c rice, .5c chickpeas, etc. You don’t realize how small a tablespoon is until you can only eat 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
There are also a couple more methods of weight loss that can be used while training, that may not necessarily require much of a calorie deficit.
This is, simply put, waiting longer to eat. There are different methods, but many wait fast overnight for 12 hours, some longer,some shorter. Fasting does not necessarily mean you eat less total daily calories, only that you may eat less in the morning and then larger lunches and dinners.
Doing easy runs on an overnight fast may increase the fat burning during the workout, which could make you more economic. (one of the theories for why women bonk less than men is because women are better fat burners). If you go into a workout fasted the fuel for that run is coming from body fat and stored glycogen, the next meal you eat will then go towards first restocking those glycogen stores. Doing harder workouts fasted may make the run more of a stress to the body and could then cause more adaptation and fitness gains.
There are also numerous other potential benefits as well.
This is another “hack” that you can do to burn an extra few calories, if you wish. Calculations suggest that 4 hours of standing vs sitting burns an extra 100-150 calories. Not a lot at once, but over time it adds up!
The Post-Workout Window of Opportunity
Commonly you hear of the PWO Window of Opportunity as a time to eat within 30 minutes after training since your body is absorbing nutrients like a dry sponge absorbs water.
It’s true getting a carb beverage in right after (or even during) a workout does help maximize your glycogen stores. However, if you’re not doing another hard or long run within about 8-10 hours of the last workout total daily calories and nutrients matter much more than getting in food within 30-60 minutes after running.
Using this window of opportunity to lose weight by not eating right away can be a easy method of reaching race weight after time. This will help increase your insulin sensitivity, which means your body is better at lowering blood glucose back down to base level. You’ll also probably eat less overall. Note that you should never sacrifice fueling for weight loss after a key workout!
And no, I’m not talking about the iron that you pump, but that also benefits women’s athletic performance.
This is looking at nutritional 😉
I just updated my research page with a new link to a review and meta analysis on iron supplementation for women:
Iron Supplementation Benefits Physical Performance in Women of Reproductive Age
Iron supplementation improved both maximal exercise performance, demonstrated by an increase in maximal oxygen consumption and submaximal exercise performance, demonstrated by a lower heart rate and proportion of VO2 max required to achieve defined workloads. Daily iron supplementation significantly improves maximal and submaximal exercise performance in WRA, providing a rationale to prevent and treat iron deficiency in this group.
While this does specifically look at women, it’s a good remind of the importance of iron for athletes of both genders.
Let’s get this out of the way.
I am the one that has never actually purposefully supplemented with electrolytes.
From the 5k to the 100 mile ultra, no salt or electrolyte pills. Of course I’ve taken electrolytes in, but never have I singled them out during supplementation.
I’ve nothing against electrolytes, but I am not a believer in the electrolyte depletion theory of muscle cramping. I do not think electrolytes are the cause of muscle cramps.
Recently though I have tested out the EFS (electrolyte fuel system) Electrolyte Drink from 1st Endurance.
There are a few characteristics of this powder that should be addressed.
There are 96 calories per scoop, with carbohydrate coming from a variety of carb sources (not simply pure maltodextrin). This means there are a variety of pathways for the carbohydrate metabolism, which can ease digestion.
I’m a huge fan of amino acids being included within sports fuel. This not only can spare muscle tissue but there has been decades of research showing a performance benefit to having free form amino acids taken in during high intensity training.
As I said, I’m not one to supplement with electrolytes alone. However I’m not going to avoid a fuel because it has electrolytes in it. 1st Endurance claims that their EFS Electrolyte Drink has the highest concentration of electrolytes on the market. Might as well bring in plenty compared to Gatorade’s dismally small amounts.
This unique inclusion has been shown in studies to stimulate oxygen consumption.
It should be noted that it is extremely difficult to actually tell if a nutritional product worked or not. I obviously did not test this on myself in a laboratory in a double blind, however I used it during harder workouts and did not feel any adverse reactions. And I’m quite confident it worked in that it fueled that particular workout.
What I like most about First Endurance is that they seem to be a brand heavily invested into science. When I was in college I was actually a subject during a study looking at the effectiveness of their PreRace supplement (it was effective). If you browse their website you’ll see a great deal of education about their products.
Due to the free shipping, tubs can be least expensively purchased from Amazon. That affiliate link also gives a few cents back to the blog here, which is greatly appreciated!
Oh, and flavor I recommend. Grape, duh 😉 I tested out some single serving pouches before purchasing a larger amount, however currently it looks like they are completely out of stock of that option at the website.
Below are example of how I fuel my normal training runs and how I go about it for races.
Habitual AM Runs
Most of my runs in the AM are done fasted, meaning I do them without eating breakfast. Generally these workouts are no more than an hour in length and of lower intensity, so body fat and glycogen are sufficient.
Harder AM Runs
If the AM run is more difficult, I may eat something prior. Generally this is a cup of oatmeal, a couple pieces of fruit, or a bagel with hummus or cream cheese. Ideally this is eaten 1-2 hours before the run. If the run is an hour or less, I’ll not eat or drink during. Examples of such workouts are a warm up + 25 minutes @ 90% 5k pace + cool down.
For most PM runs I almost never have fluids or calories during, as I’ve been eating throughout the day. Most important for these is to make sure you go into the run with a light stomach. Having too much food too high up in your GI system will be far worse than having too little food. I like to wait at least 2 hours to run after a meal.
We will assume all races take place in the early AM. For any lasting less than an hour I will generally take in the same type of breakfast I mentioned above, and nothing during.
Half Marathon & Full
Same breakfast as above. I do not like connecting my fluid and calorie intake for events that may require both. I will plan on roughly 200-250 calories per hour, generally in the form of gels, which I’ll carry with me. For water it’s completely by thirst. The two options are to either carry a bottle or take from aid stations. I prefer to sip, and the bottle is much better for this. However I dislike having to carry it as well. For a half marathon hydration is not very crucial, so you can likely just grab a few cups at a few aid stations and be good. I
f you wanted more water during a full marathon, starting with a bottle and dumping it when it’s gone is an option. You’ll be more able to comfortable take in extra fluids and calories early on when you’re going at a more comfortable effort, and will probably be less interested in these towards the end when you’re really pushing the pace.
Some products I recommend:
First Endurance EFS powder, click the image to see my review.
Also the First Endurance Liquid Shot, 400 calories in the palm of your hand!
Tastes great & is not thick, so does not require water to wash it down. But packaging is a bit larger than a traditional gel.
I also absolutely love gummy Cliff Bloks. Just tear the top and you can squeeze a blok out and suck on it for a few minutes. Slow release, does not require water, and tastes great. They’re easy enough to hold that you can just put it on a short pocket, hold onto it for 3-5 miles, or put inside a handheld pouch.
Great recipes for easy “meals” on the go!
Also, the energy and overall awesomeness of my hysterical running partner, Jenna Elizabeth, provide me the fuel I really need to dominate races. She is an inspiration. The end.
If you feel hungry during a training run or race, don’t fret.
Be sure to know there is a difference between hunger and low fuel while training.
They are not one and the same.
Your body stores thousands of calories of carbohydrate and many more thousand calories of onboard fat, all of which is readily available while on the move. These sources have very little to do with your hunger level.
I would go as far as to suggest hunger to be a good thing during a race. It means your chances for GI distress are possibly lower and that you do not have undigested foot bouncing around inside your stomach.
Plus, if you’re hungry, it’s very easy to fix. Grab something from an aid station. However, if you’re experiencing GI issues from food you’ve eaten, there’s not much you can do.
For my own AM runs and races, I prefer to go into them with very little to zero food in my system, a cup of oatmeal or a couple bananas is generally enough.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on hunger and going into a race/run with little or no breakfast!