Help me use Gu for the first time.
February 18, 2011 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Please advise me about using Gu for the first time while running.

I am training for my first half marathon and although I've run 15k's, I recently realized that after about 45 minutes to an hour of running, I need extra fuel. I bought a couple Gu packets to try out. I understand that I am supposed to take them with water but I was wondering what all you endurance runners consider best practices when using Gu (or similar supplements). My plan is to place some water and my packet along my route, at 45 minutes to an hour in. My questions are:

1. Should I actually plan on taking it earlier, before my usual fatigue sets in?
2. Do I take a mini hit of Gu, a sip of water, a hit of Gu, water, and so on until it's gone? Or can I slurp the packet and then have some water?
3. How much water?
4. Am I overthinking this and actually the important thing is to just have water with Gu and it doesn't matter how exactly I get it all in me?

I know that this question will elicit answers of the "YMMV" nature, which is great, too. I guess I just want to avoid common pitfalls that would result in getting a cramp or stomachache, or not benefitting from the Gu at all.

Thank you!
posted by Rudy Gerner to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Number four. It's supposed to be a shot, chug and chase with water and get back to running.
posted by fixedgear at 5:53 AM on February 18, 2011

1. Yes - it's better to take on calories before you start to bonk. If you notice something at 45 minutes, it will probably come on earlier at full race pace. I'd suggest something like every 30 minutes.

2. No, mostly because that's not what you'll be able to do during a race. In a race you'll see a water stop coming up, chug the Gu, then wash it down with a small cup of water.

3. Just a few ounces. Again, try to match what you'll do in the race.

4. Yes and no. It's an important thing to get accustomed to before the race.

On note: you said you'd leave the water and Gu on the course. I'd suggest putting the Gu in a shorts or jacket pocket instead, so you can learn to rip open the packet and eat the gel as you approach the water. Good luck! I train for marathons, but I've always enjoyed halfs (and 15ks). It's a great distance.
posted by letitrain at 6:01 AM on February 18, 2011

Take it before your fatigue sets in. Once you're tired, it's harder to recover.

Now, about how much to take, it's somewhat preference based. One of my running friends takes "bites" of Gu over the course of 10 minutes or so and then drinks water. Other people down the entire thing. But yes, you do need the water afterwords.

Although you didn't ask this, you might want to consider getting a fuel belt (the belt that has the water bottles attached). Then you always have access to both the water and the food. They are a bit uncomfortable at first, but you get used to it fairly quickly.
posted by statsgirl at 6:02 AM on February 18, 2011

I tale the Gu then chase with water.

I do take on other food and water throughout the run but I am training for longer runs. I usually take the Gu every 55 mins.
posted by moochoo at 6:05 AM on February 18, 2011

1. One GU every 45-50 minutes usually works for me. It's a very individual thing.
2. Either way is fine. I tend to do it the first way.
3. However much you want, honestly. It's an individual thing. Experiment.
4. Yup.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:07 AM on February 18, 2011

What's your basis for thinking you need more fuel ?

I guess my answer falls in the YMMV, but I've ran 18 miles regularly and not needed anything extra (well, water in the summer).

I see folks run a 5k and chow down goo/gu/gatorade like they've not eaten in the past 48 hrs.

What are your pre-run and normal meals like ? Do you have adequate nutrition, hydration, and rest ?
posted by k5.user at 6:38 AM on February 18, 2011

One thing you should know is that the various Gus can be very sticky, so it's nice to have water around for drinking, but also for washing the Gu off the sticky parts of your face and hands. Maybe I'm the only one who can't stand this, though.

My general plan would for a half marathon would be to take one at mile 6 or 7 and see how it goes from there. I usually only eat during runs of 12 or more miles in my training, so that might be an individual thing. IMO, the most important thing is to have enough food in you before the race so that you don't get that cavernous stomach feeling. That can lead you to overcompensate, in which case you may end up in a sticky, Gu-filled, teary mess. A little dab'll do you.

Seconding the Fuel Belt-- it's really easy to get used to, and saves you from having to need food and water only at expected times. Plus, it helps you to avoid the potential pile-ups and slips at aid stations.

Enjoy the half marathon!
posted by activitystory at 6:50 AM on February 18, 2011

Regard question 2 - I recommend you get some extra gu packets and try them out beforehand.

Some people can swallow the entire packet by itself first with a water chaser, others need to "sip" the gu in small amounts with water in between.

I've even known some people who squeeze the entire packet into their mouth, then follow with as much water as they can hold in their cheeks, do a little intra-mouth mixing to dilute the gu bolus and then swallow in big gulps. They do this because they can't stand the taste and/or handle swallowing the texture of the gu by itself.
posted by de void at 7:14 AM on February 18, 2011

Yeah, on #1, you want to stave off the bonk, not repair after a bonk. If you're doing a long run, take one as you go out the door, and see how long it takes to bonk. Subtract 15 minutes, and you've got yourself a schedule. (when I did my halfs, once a year, I'd eat some oatmeal 2 hours before, a banana right before the gun, and a Gu at 5 and 11 miles. And every year at the end I felt like I should have pushed myself faster - felt like I had a *lot* more to give.)

I have no idea how you would accomplish #2. The packets are sticky at the first moment you open them. I do more long rides than runs, and I usually tear off the packet, put the whole damn thing in my mouth except the end opposite the opening, and pull the packet out, using my teeth to squeeze the goop out. Then a splash of water in the mouth, and one on the hands. (I really, really hate having sticky hands. I have never in my life enjoyed a PB&J. FWIW.)

Another thing to consider: caffienated gels, esp if it's not too hot out. Half of the serious bonks I've experienced (most on a bike) have actually been caffeine withdrawals.
posted by notsnot at 7:38 AM on February 18, 2011

I typically just take mine as a shot with a sip of water mid-run. Remember, the point of "training runs" are to figure out what works for you trial and error - and this includes WHEN during the run to take it.

Also: Take a large safety pin and safety pin the top of the GU packet to your shorts band. This way, you can just rip it when you're ready to take it and won't have to worry about someone swiping it.
posted by floweredfish at 7:51 AM on February 18, 2011

I agree with everything that letitrain said. Also, just wanted to warn you that too many caffeinated gus during a run can make you sprint to the nearest porta-john. If you happen to have bought and double caffeine gus, be sure to try them out before the big race.
posted by JuliaKM at 7:54 AM on February 18, 2011

I am sensitive to products like these, and have sometimes had heartburn after consuming them that was so bad I thought a glowing hole would appear in my chest.

What has worked best for me is 1) using honey straws or ClifShots; 2) ensuring I'm well-hydrated before consuming the glop (I find it's impossible to drink enough afterwards to avoid heartburn if I'm dehydrated before); and 3) chase with not too much water - apparently, overfilling the dormant mid-exercise stomach can also be a factor in the heartburn issue.
posted by richyoung at 8:14 AM on February 18, 2011

I'll offer an alternate suggestion. What worked for me is nibbling on Clifbar that I kept in my pocket during the race. Starting about 5 miles into the race I'd break off a tiny bit of the bar (just enough to fit between my thumb and forefinger. I'd repeat that every one to two miles. I never had stomach problems and I didn't have to time it with the water stations and better yet some of the Clfbars actually taste like real food to me unlike the gu or the shots.

The key takeaway however is pick a technique and train with it. This is not something that you want to introduce late in the game or god-forbid on race day.
posted by mmascolino at 8:47 AM on February 18, 2011

I hope you got the Vanilla Bean. I think the other flavors are nasty. I usually take it with my normally scheduled amount of water at 45-60 minutes (about 8 oz, or 16 oz on hot days). I tend to eat the whole thing and chase it with water while I walk for about 1 minute. Sometimes it can get sticky, so I make sure theres a trash can nearby.

On race day, I eat a cliff bar about 90-60 minutes before the race, and then a GU packet about 15 minutes beforehand.

Try them before race day though. I think you'll have more problems with the flavor/consistency than causing stomach problems.
posted by yeti at 9:07 AM on February 18, 2011

Seconding the bit-at-a-time Clif Bar. Can't stand goo, horrible sickly sweet sticky stuff; a bar feels more like real food.

Gu Chomps are not bad, though.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:39 AM on February 18, 2011

Just wanted to let you all know that this amazing collection of advice lead to me having a terrific first time Gu experience.

I set out for a nine mile run and ended up doing ten because I felt awesome. I have never held onto my energy beyond about 6 or 7 miles until today.

In case you all want to know, after about 50 minutes (pre-bonk for me) I stopped for a Chocolate Outrage Gu (which, btw, tasted like thick Hershey's syrup and I am embarrassed to admit I kinda loved it) and some water. I played the water bit by ear and had a few sips but was careful not to gulp. Basically just enough to wash it down plus a couple extra sips.

I was excited to have an dynamite run with no bonk whatsoever. (Thank you for teaching me the word "bonk," I now feel like I have earned calling myself a runner!)

(Folks who suggested alternate fuel--thank you for those ideas, but I definitely can't have solid food while I run--that I have tried and it ends in stomach pain.)

Thanks a bunch for reminding me that training runs are rehearsals for a race and that MMMV--those were as important as takeaways as all the specific tips.

You all are amazing!
posted by Rudy Gerner at 11:15 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Looks like you got all the info you needed, but just to add a bit..

When I'm doing speed work at the track in an effort to get my PR down, I find that I use the Gu more often than on a long run. Same if I'm doing hills. I usually stash frozen water the night before a run at a couple friend's places strategically on my route, sometimes I rubber band some gu, but the fuel belt is really pretty great.

Oh, and if you get a weird salt craving the night after having Gu, that's normal.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 7:08 PM on February 18, 2011

You said that you have stomach problems when you eat any solid food while running. If you do decide to do a lot of longer runs (and it sounds like you had fun with this one), you may want to reconsider this. The idea of taking little chunks of a Clif bar sounds about right, or the mini-Clif that come in boxes of 18 at Target. I do these on rides over two hours. Here's the trick, though: you have to chew them more than usual. Think of 'em like gum, almost - you want to masticate that Clif bar into submission. I think you'll find that banishes some of the tummy problems.
posted by notsnot at 4:49 PM on February 19, 2011

« Older How to develop and Ipad app with no programming...   |   How do I get tested for a hedgehog allergy? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.