How to Fuel for Various Distances and Events

How to Fuel for Various Distances and Events

Contributed by Cali Schweikhart

As an endurance athlete who competes in a few different distances/disciplines, I have had to spend a lot of time figuring out fueling strategies specific to each race type. It’s not so much the issue of “what”… the answer to that is Spring Energy of course! But the issues of “how much” and “when” are important things to consider.

In addition, as a hybrid fitness athlete, obstacle course racer, and ultra runner, I compete in events ranging from under an hour to over a day. Events in the hybrid fitness space are shorter, higher intensity, and involve intense strength components. Obstacle course races are trail races with added coordination and strength challenges included. Each event requires me to formulate a solid fueling plan in order to stay on top of nutrition and get the most out of my efforts. 

For events under an hour (a 5K obstacle course race, for example), a great way to ensure adequate muscle glycogen and energy for the race is to eat a good meal about two hours prior to the start and then top those blood sugar stores off with a gel about 15-20 minutes before start time. Usually I go with Canaberry here because a) it’s one of my favorite Spring flavors and b) it packs a quick 100 calories for just enough of a blood sugar boost. Since this type of race is relatively short, I don’t often find myself needing fuel during the actual event, as long as I have taken in enough calories and carbs prior. However, I will typically run with an extra gel just in case my blood sugar dips or if I just feel like I need it and want an extra boost.

The race type that has been the most interesting to experiment with when it comes to nutrition is hybrid racing, namely an event called HYROX. This event is 8 x 1km of running with 8 fitness stations between kilometers. Top female times for this race are between 60 and 70 minutes, and it is an extremely high intensity effort throughout. Considering how high the output is for this race, this length of time is just enough to require taking in some extra calories during the event. I have found that taking a gel a little before halfway through this type of race is important to helping me sustain the high intensity effort required. Spring’s Awesome Sauce is great for this one because it packs 180 calories in one gel. It’s quick to consume and packs a punch! In the future, I might even up my fueling for HYROX and add in another gel, perhaps taking one around station 3 and the other around station 6. I have found that if your stomach can handle the calories, they will likely only help your performance and recovery! 

Now for the long-distance events! For any race that is about 2 hours or more, I aim to consume 250-400 calories per hour. The longer and slower the event, the higher my goal. For example, a half-marathon distance obstacle course race is still run at a pretty high intensity, so ingesting 400 calories per hour can be tricky because usually a higher intensity means a more sensitive stomach. For me, 250 calories an hour is usually sufficient to keep energy and output high without running into digestive issues. This is where Spring’s entire line-up of gels work extremely well. As for events of the marathon distance and up, that’s when I really try to increase consumption of calories. My favorite way to hit that 350-400 calorie per hour range is with a mix of different fuel sources, namely Spring gels, the Spring Nature Up bar, and the Spring Wolf Pack. As races get longer and more fuel needs to be consumed, variety is key to avoiding palette fatigue. I love rotating through the Wolf Pack (which pretty much has the consistency of a gel but is a little more voluminous and packs 350 calories per pouch!), the Nature Up bar, Canaberry, Awesome Sauce, and Hill Aid. I especially love the Wolf Pack because it can be consumed in bites. It has a twist cap that allows you to reseal the pouch and save some for later, so it is very easy to evenly distribute the calories as opposed to having to consume 350 all at once. Plus, it is honestly one of the best tasting fuel sources I have ever had! 

Fueling is a tricky topic… Everyone's taste preferences, ingredient tolerances, and stomach sensitivities are so different. One thing that is great about Spring is that their products are made solely with real-food ingredients and are therefore less likely to cause stomach upset. I love recommending Spring to everyone, but especially to those who struggle to get or keep calories down during competition without encountering digestive issues. Spring keeps my energy high and my tastebuds, stomach, and muscles happy!


About the author: Cali Schweikhart is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and competes at an elite level in Spartan, OCR, HYROX, and Ultra races.

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