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Fuel for Running Part II: GUs, Shot Bloks, Nuun, Sports Beans and More

Posted Sep 29 2011 2:21am

Did you miss my first post that covered the real food that fuels my training runs and powers me through road races? Check it out!

Now, let’s talk about the good stuff – the gooey and gummy stuff. Like I said in my last post, these are simply my opinions and my insights into what’s worked for me. Experiment and find what works for you!

Settle in for the details.

The Lowdown

Before I started training for my first marathon, I obviously had no idea what GU was… let alone what it tasted like and when to take it. I didn’t know how delicious Sports Jelly Beans were… and how I can’t really take them during a race (like ‘em so much I can’t stop once I start).

I still haven’t tried every energy gel or sports fuel out there, but let me briefly get you up to speed on the ones I have tried.

From the GU Energy Labs website: Simple to take, simple to digest, GU Energy Gel provides just what you need for premium exercise fuel and none of the extras that slow you down. GU takes you where you want to go, fast. GU provides athletes with a shot of 100 calories in the form of 70-80% maltodextrin and 30-20% fructose. Vital electrolytes keep your blood chemistry in line and hydration levels stable. Calcium keeps your muscles humming and caffeine adds an extra kick to your power.

Flavors: Strawberry Banana (tastes good), Mint Chocolate (for chocolate lovers), Just Plain (probably the safest), Tri Berry (pretty safe), Jet Blackberry (too grape tasting for me), Vanilla Bean (too sweet), Chocolate Outrage (haven’t tried), Mandarin Orange (haven’t tried), Espresso Love (haven’t tried), Lemon Sublime (haven’t tried).

My 2 cents: Yes it tastes like gel and has a really gooey, gluey consistency. But they’re the safest way to get sugars and electrolytes for me. The sugar does not sit in my stomach at all – especially if I wash it down with water. I usually don’t stop running when I need one and can tear off the top with my teeth.

From the GU Energy Labs website: GU Chomps offer a change of pace from gels and an answer to that moment in your run, ride, ski, swim, hike…. when you just gotta have something to chomp on. They offer: amino acids, vitamins C and E, sodium, potassium and a blend of complex and simple carbohydrates.

Flavors: Strawberry (delicious), Blueberry Pomegranate (meh), Orange (pretty safe), Watermelon (delicious), Peach Tea (also pretty safe), Cranberry Apple (semi delicious).

My 2 cents: These are basically gummy bears but have a thicker consistency – sometimes they’re hard to chew for me. I don’t like to take them on runs because they end up feeling like rocks in my stomach. But I will take them a half hour before a run if I need a quick boost of energy. The flavors are all delicious, especially if you like chewy candy!

From the Clif website: Clife Shot Bloks are the latest nutrition option for endurance athletes. SHOT Bloks come in chewable, 33 calorie cubes, making it easy to customize and track caloric and electrolyte intake during long outings and races.

Flavors: Tropical Punch (THE best), Strawberry (also delicious), Cran Razz (delicious), Mountain Berry (delicious), Orange (haven’t tried), Margarita (haven’t tried – but it intrigues me), Black Cherry (haven’t tried – gross), Lemon Lime (haven’t tried).

My 2 cents: These are like GU Chomps, but they have a bit of a softer consistency and are easier to chew. The flavors are way better too. I have fueled some runs on these chews, but my preference is gel. I also like to take a few before a run if I need something sugary. I have to watch it though – they’re so good I could eat an entire package (or two) in one sitting.

From the Clif website: Clif Shot Energy Gel provides quick energy to athletes while racing and training. With our new formula and flavors getting energized between breaths has never been easier.

Flavors: Strawberry (delicious!), Vanilla (haven’t tried), Chocolate (haven’t tried), Citrus (haven’t tried), Mocha (haven’t tried), Razz (haven’t tried)

My 2 cents: I haven’t experimented with Clif gel too much – mostly because GU works so well for me. But I love the strawberry flavor! It definitely got the job done, but I am just more comfortable and familiar with GU. The other flavors must be good too. Clif seems to have delicious flavors.

From the Sports Beans website: Scientifically formulated to maximize sports performance. Carbohydrates to fuel your body during intense activity. Electrolytes (sodium and potassium) vital for maintaining fluid balance. Vitamins B1, B2, and B3 to help burn carbohydrates and fat. Vitamin C to protect muscles and cells against oxidative damage. Numerous clinical studies have documented that caffeine enhances sports performance including alertness, endurance, agility, sprint speed and power output.

Flavors: Fruit Punch (DELICIOUS), Extreme Watermelon (DELICIOUS – has caffeine), Berry (DELICIOUS), Assorted Mix (I love surprises), Lemon Lime (haven’t tried), Orange (haven’t tried), Extreme Cherry (haven’t tried – has caffeine).

My 2 cents: Many of you know my love for and obsession with Sports Jelly Beans. I’ll buy packs and packs at a time and mysteriously, they will be all gone a day later. I’ve been know to bring a pack or two to parties. Everyone needs a lil boost of energy! However, I’m cautious with mixing the beans and running (which is why I should be buying them in the first place…). Once I ate a pack before a race and it felt like there were rocks in my stomach. And, of course, once I pop a pack open, the fun doesn’t stop with just one pack. They should sponsor me for how much I’ve talked them up (and for the amount of dollar bills I’ve invested in them). I will have them on hand at Chicago, but will only resort to them if I NEED them in the final 10K.

From the PowerBar website: PowerBar Energy Gel is the first gel to provide the carbs and electrolytes of a high end sports drink, and contains 4 times the sodium of leading competitors. Sodium is the key electrolyte lost in sweat and is the only electrolyte recommended to be replaced during endurance exercise.

Flavors: Green Apple (delicious – really!), Strawberry Banana (delicious), Berry Blast (haven’t tried), Chocolate (haven’t tried), Double Latte (haven’t tried), Kona Punch (haven’t tried), Raspberry Cream (haven’t tried), Tangerine (haven’t tried), Vanilla (haven’t tried).

My 2 cents: I loooove the Green Apple and have used it on a couple successful long runs. It is no where near as thick as GU and it’s easier to swallow and mix with water. I read somewhere that Deena Kastor dilutes the Green Apple in a water bottle during marathons. It’s pretty sugary, but I like that.

From the Nuun website: Great tasting active hydration. Zero sugar. Important electrolytes. Under 8 calories. Easy to use and take with you. Electrolyte enhanced drink tabs that quickly dissolve in a water bottle and absorb quickly.

Flavors: Strawberry Banana (my favorite!), Fruit Punch (pretty good), Goji Berry Green Tea (pretty good), Tropical Punch (gross), Lemon Tea (haven’t tried), Grape (haven’t tried), Tri-Berry (haven’t tried), Orange (haven’t tried), Lemon Lime (haven’t tried), Banana (haven’t tried), Citrus Fruit (haven’t tried), Kona Cola (haven’t tried).

My 2 cents: I. Love. Nuun. It’s part of my fueling strategy for the marathon and I think it’s really helped me feel so great on my most recent long runs. I also drop a half tab into my water during the day when I’m not running. Delicious! It really does “one up” your water with electrolytes and hydration.

So that’s some background on the types of fuel I’ve become familiar with. I still want to try Honey Stingers and Hammer Gel and countless others.


These gels, chews, and tabs aren’t just meant for long distance runners or intense athletes. When taken properly, I think they can help power all kinds of workouts and speed recovery. Nutrition is so important for everyone! The key is to fuel before you get tired and loose too much energy/electrolytes – not to fuel as you are already feeling burnt out. Experiment and figure out if you need a boost from GU, beans, chews, etc. on varied training runs or workouts.

My Fueling Strategies

These have changed over time of course (I used to take a GU or other gel around mile 5 on 8-10 mile runs) and can vary depending on the day (and what I’ve eaten and how tired I am). If it’s a warm day or during the summer, I also always bring an 8 oz water bottle with me and refill as necessary.

Training Runs:

  • 4-6 miles: Chews before the run if I have them / half nuun tab.
  • 7-10 miles: Chews before the run if I have them / whole nuun tab.
  • 11-13 miles: GU around mile 5-6 + 8 oz water + half nuun tab (to sip).
  • 14-17 miles: GU at mile 6 and GU at mile 11-12 + 8 oz water + half nuun tab in water (to sip).
  • 18-20 miles: GU every 50-55 minutes. GU at mile 5.5, GU at mile 10.5-11, GU at mile 15.5-16 + 8 oz water + half nuun tab in water (to sip).


  • 5K: Haven’t had the need to fuel a 5K (also haven’t run one in 2.5 years!).
  • 10K: Not usually. I have taken half a GU before around mile 4 when I was feeling burnt out. It ended up being a mistake because I wasn’t near a water station to wash it down with H2O. Note to self: don’t blow up in the first 5K.
  • Half Marathon: For a training run of 13 miles, I’d probably only take one GU. For an actual race, I’d take two GUs, around mile 5 and mile 9.
  • Marathon: I’m confident in this plan. I will be GUing every 50-55 minutes (washing it down with 8 oz of water and then sipping on 8 oz of nuun-ified water right after). So that’s about 4-5 GUs. I will also have a pack of jelly beans on hand if I need a small boost at any time, but particularly in the last 10K.

As always – let me know if you have any questions about anything in this post!

PLEASE TELL ME! Gels, chews, beans, and tabs are obviously very intriguing to me. Share your strategies! What types of nutrition and fuel do you like best? Any that you absolutely cannot bear? How often do you fuel during training runs and races? 

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