Junk food as marathon fuel?

One of the DIY refueling stations at the Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon. It was quite the mix, ranging from the usual fare to some runners' stashes of  Twix bars, Snickers bars, pretzels and even tortilla chips.

One of the DIY refueling stations at the Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon. It was quite the mix, ranging from the usual fare to some runners’ stashes of Twix bars, Snickers bars, pretzels, tortilla chips and even Gummi Bears.

I just can’t do gels. I know they’re convenient and specially formulated and everything, but they remind me of a cross between snot and jelly beans, both of which gross me out.

My usual long-run fuel has been homemade honey balls, but during the Maple Leaf marathon I set mine out on the refueling table in a slightly open bag so I wouldn’t have to waste time or energy fiddling with the zip-lock, and they wound up being way too dry. I was glad I had them, but that experience makes me want to try something else.

Enter Combos, which came into my life shortly after I ended my relationship with Doritos and French fries.  (You know what they say, when one door closes another one opens.) They’re every bit as junky and dangerous as what they replaced, and I can’t keep them around the house without getting into trouble. But because I associate them with my postfat life rather than all that came before, I’m more confident about my ability to buy a small bag every once in a while as a special treat – if I’ve got enough Weight Watchers points, that is.

As far as running fuel goes, they’re salty, filling little nuggets that provide plenty of carbs. Yes, they’re junk food. But judging from what other runners brought to eat during the marathon – and every single person there was WAY more experienced than me – the best fuel is what works for you.  Yes, there were the usual stacks of gels and energy bars, but I also saw a stack of Snickers and Twix bars in the mix, along with pretzels, tortilla chips, Gummi Bears and who knows what else lurking in various mysterious bags and Tupperware containers.

I’m still a week or so away from doing a long enough run to warrant any on-board fuel besides water, but next time out, I’m going to try bringing a little bag of Combos.


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10 Responses to Junk food as marathon fuel?

  1. bgddyjim says:

    I’m pretty picky about on-board fuel but that’s because on a typical century I’ll burn 2,000 more calories than I would running a marathon. I use (exclusively now) ERG energy bars (400-500 calories each AND 100% all natural), Jelly Belly Energy Beans (with caffeine of course) and Hammer Perpetuem in one H2O bottle and a mix between H2O and Gatorade in the other. I’ll eat a banana or two at rest stops as well. This mix works perfectly for me. I don’t get into too much of the other garbage because at that point food IS fuel. I have partaken in pretzel sticks every now and again and they help so I like your Combos idea.

    • tischcaylor says:

      That all sounds pretty smart and sensible to me, with the exception of the Energy Beans. I respect them, even tucked a few packages into some “athletic fuel” gift baskets at Christmas, but I gotta come up with something else. The ERG bars sound interesting, but probably too many calories for me.

      • bgddyjim says:

        I figured you’d have a tough time with the beans, but I love ’em… Oh, and Gu Roctane from time to time (again, with caffeine). The Roctane’s taste A LOT better than the standard Gu’s.

        400-500 is a bunch of calories. Good luck getting it balanced out.

  2. LOL @snot and jelly beans!!
    Yes to whatever works for you. I wouldn’t eat junk food on a run but then I hardly eat junk at all, I think running fuel is a choice we make that will probably have some resemblance to our eating habits.

    • tischcaylor says:

      Your fuel obviously works for you … I’m still figuring mine out. As a former fatso (to use an outdated term I’d apply only to myself), I must confess I love the idea that I need to eat something on a long run — for all I know, that’s part of the appeal of going long. 🙂

  3. Twenty-five years ago or so, my brother, brother-in-law and I went deep-sea fishing in Florida. I got seasick. Combos, for some reason, settled my stomach, along with a can or two of Coca-Cola. I wouldn’t touch either these days. In his book “Ultramarathonman,” Dean Karnazes eats a whole pizza and cheesecake while running a 199-mile race. He also stops at 7-11 and gets a burrito and Dorittos and other junk food. He says that while training he eats only complex carbs and clean proteins (whatever they are), but when he races, he eats all kinds of junk because his body needs large doses of calories that he can’t get with complex carbs and clean proteins. In his book :”The Longest Run,” Ed Ayres says he tried to eat lots and lots of food during a 100-mile ultra but got sick because his body couldn’t absorb all those calories, so now he has a boiled potato about halfway through an ultra and lets his body fat fuel his run. What’s the right way? I have no idea. I plan to eat raisins while doing long runs.

    • tischcaylor says:

      I think Dean K. might have switched over to the Paleo diet, Mike, your diet is so superior to mine, and I do think everybody has to decide what gives them energy without upsetting their stomach, but …. raisins? Seems like that might be inviting an extra pit stop….:)

  4. I ran a marathon with two huge Snickers Bars once. I figured I needed a quick sugar source and they are certanly loaded w/ sugar. I did okay.
    I do like to eat candy when I’m on a long run with my club, it’s my indulgence. I burn the stuff right off. Candy is not scientifically formulated for re-fueling so it’s probably not the best thing for a marathon. I’m not an expert on sugar, but I believe Glucose and Fructose are the best sugars to consume during an endurance event.

    • tischcaylor says:

      Your club sounds awesome (and not just because they indulge your candy fuel habit; from the little I’ve read so far, it sounds like you guys have a great time running.) I’m probably the last person who should run with a Snickers bar on board. On the other hand, maybe I’d run faster so I could hurry up and get to the point where I could eat it? Hmmm ….

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