Category Archives: Energy Gel

Those short of training for a Marathon


The genesis of this post is in a question asked by a friend about running the Mumbai (SCMM) Full Marathon when his long runs were limited to 24-26km in the 5-6 weeks before the race. Here is what I told him.

It would be difficult to comment without getting into details of your training plan. However here are a few things to consider –

  1. Most “run only” training plans have 2, 32-35k runs 3 and 6 weeks before the race. If you were doing a “run-walk” training program this distance would be 2 runs of 40-45k in the same weeks.
  2. Since your body has not had the training input to run beyond 30k you need to do a few things –
    1. If you had a time goal then you may want to revise it downward by about 30-40secs per km. In fact I would suggest a goal which is 10-15sec/km slower than your last long run in the last 4 weeks.
    2. Start off even slower, about 20-30secs slower than your last long run pace and then only start accelerating when you have crossed 32km mark, if at all.
    3. You will definitely discover “the wall” around 30-32k. To try to push this back. Take a walk break of about 45-60secs after every 4 minutes of running or at least at every km marker. Don’t let “other people” determine your speed !!
    4. Eat some refined “fast” carbs between 1-2hrs before the race start (banana, white bread with jam, biscuits, etc) to help add some additional fuel. The fuel shortage is what primarily causes you to hit the wall (your long run training adapts the body to burn more fat, so the less longer, the long run, the less the body is adapted to do this).
    5. I hope you have had some experience fueling & hydrating while running long. Use the same gels/electrolytes during the race. If you had no fueling practice then stick to a slightly diluted gatorade/enerzal mix (add 600ml water to a sachet instead of just 500ml). You could also look at some natural fuel like raisins (carry about 300gm in a belt pouch).
    6. Start fueling 10min before the race and continue at a rate of about 600ml gatorade/enerzal per 45-60min or so. This should also suffice for hydration.
  3. Your (and for most marathoners at SCMM) biggest challenge will be 7km from the finish when you hit the Peddar Road climb. Just remember things will be a tiny bit easier once you are beyond Kemps corner.

Finally – The pain and torture would have all been worth it when you cross the finish line, irrespective of in what time 🙂

…Will see you after you have collected your medal…

RunIndiaRun !

Gatorade v/s Electral (ORS) v/s Enerzal – which one should I drink?


Please be careful about the usage of the two. Gatorade/energy drink is for NORMAL recovery of body fluids & salts, like when spent doing sports. ELECTRAL (ORS) on the other hand is when extreme DEHYDRATION HAS ALREADY SET-IN, that is why it is called ORS – Oral Hydration Salts. ELECTRAL is given if the person is still able to hydrate orally otherwise one has to administer a saline drip for recovery from dehydration. Usually this means after a severe & prolonged bout of diarrhoea and/or vomiting.

Also be aware that one packet of Electral is to be dissolved in 1 litre of water for it to remain ISOTONIC and Gatorade in 500ml. Electral is basically an isotonic drink and NOT AN ENERGY drink. It has only about 25kcal energy (as sugars) compared to 126kcal in Gatorade.

I had both Electral (ORS) and Gatorade Sports Mix with me so here is a quick comparison. Also picked up values for Enerzal from the FDC website (the manufacturers of both Electral & Enerzal) You will see what I mean, when you realise the salts in Electral are almost 5 times that in Gatorade (taking a 500ml serving of each). Enerzal and Gatorade on the other hand are pretty comparable.

Gatorade Electral(ORS) Enerzal
Sodium Chloride 215mg 1300mg 450mg
Potassium Chloride NIL/??? 800mg 350mg
Sodium Citrate NIL 1450mg 650mg
Dextrose (Sugar) 32,400mg 6,750mg 32,050mg
Energy 126kcal ~ 26kcal 130kcal
Osmolarity 280-300 245 ??
Price/500ml Rs. 15 Rs. 7.50 ??

Imagine drinking 2-3 litres of Electral with that much sodium/salt during your marathon !! The total daily requirement for a normal adult person is only 2300-2500mg, if you drink 1 litre of Electral you would have already crossed your daily normal dose and you’re not done yet !

Bottom line, Enerzal may be a more suitable “desi” substitute and definitely the reason why FDC has launched it. It also has other trace minerals which Gatorade does not seem to have (or at least doesn’t put it on the label).

RunIndiaRun !

Running: Hydration and Energy – a bit of the science behind it


I had posted this to a question on a running forum in reference to a discussion on what to use during the Mumbai Marathon this year – Gatorade or Gel or both – and running hydration in general. The issue came up after it was announced that Gatorade was the new official energy drink partner for SCMM 2012. Hope this helps in understanding the issue a little better.

Yes, the key is not to take both Gatorade and an Energy Gel/Bar together during a marathon. Here is, “hopefully”, a simplified explanation –

Most nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine. The small intestine absorbs nutrients best when they are in an isotonic state (that is the concentration of water to dissolved nutrients is similar to that in the body). If they are in hypertonic state (more concentrated than your body fluids) the body will need to dilute them and therefore it will draw water from the body/cells to get the food/drink into isotonic state. A hypotonic liquid (something like plain water) will also be absorbed quickly but mostly in the large intestine. For those of you who remember your elementary school science this is nothing but the principle of osmosis in action (the lining of different parts of the intestine being of varying permeability will play different roles in the digestive process).

For short duration exercise where you don’t lose a lot of salt and water just using a hypotonic solution (plain water) is enough. For long endurance events where you deplete salts, water and stored glycogen you need an isotonic “energy” solution from which nutrients can be extracted early in the digestive process.

Gatorade is an isotonic energy drink and therefore already in the right concentration to be absorbed in the small intestine. If you have a gel (nothing but an energy drink with the water taken out) and then also drink Gatorade with it, the resulting solution is hypertonic and will start drawing water from your body before the nutrients can be absorbed. Therefore if you are going to use both then alternate between the two (with at least a 30-45 minute gap) and with each gel/bar drink at least 200-300ml of plain water (if not at one go then in a span of 10-15 minutes post gel ingestion). If you don’t drink water with the gel/bar the body is going to draw that water from you leading to eventual dehydration.

Personally I would recommend using just one (Gel/Bar or Gatorade) during a run so that it is easy to keep track of what you are doing. Gatorade would be ideal (already isotonic) but it would be really cumbersome to carry enough of it for your entire long run compared to pouches of gel.

A lot of marathons (including Mumbai earlier with Lucozade) only serve up isotonic “calorie free” drinks which are great for replenishing salts & water but will do nothing to replenish glycogen levels. So watch the label of what you are drinking if you also want energy.

BTW a very simple near isotonic energy drink would be a standard unsweetened juice (Real Active, 100% Tropicana, etc), a pinch of salt with water added to it in a 1:1 ratio. A good and cheap gel could be as simple as a tube of jam (Kissan sells tubes of jam) with maybe some salt (some jams have salts other don’t).

Hope this clarifies.

Very best for the final two weeks of training before SCMM 2012.

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