Since I came up with the crazy notion of running a marathon as part of my Fat2Forty series of blogs I always had one fear; hitting the wall. Now, for those non runners amongst you that might seem like a silly notion but it is widely accepted as the second biggest reason people do not finish a marathon, behind lack of training of course! So what is hitting the wall? Its the physiological process that occurs when your body runs out of carbohydrates to burn as fuel and has to rely solely on fats. The amount of energy that is actually produced by burning fats alone is not enough to keep a high level of performance going, so you slow down or stop thus “hitting the wall”. It is physically possible to keep going after hitting the wall but it must be at a much lower intensity level to which the supply of energy from burning fats alone is sufficient. Because of the lack of carbohydrates and thus glucose the brain is slowly starved of the only form of energy it can use. You slowly become disorientated and confused and can put yourself into serious danger. At this point most athletes will need medical intervention to help them recover.
With this in mind I knew that I would have to plan my nutrition for the training, pre-race, during the race and post race very carefully. I have used a multitude of products before when in training but never really took it so seriously.This time I knew I had to take it seriously so I started my research. I looked at a couple of products and companies and after sifting through lots of reviews finally decided to try a range of products by High5, a UK based company that have been making Sports nutrition products for over 20 years.
It is important that you try any product before the big day to make sure that you like it and that it settles with you during your event. With this in mind I purchased a “Marathon Race Pack” from the company.
The box arrived in a couple of days and seemed to be a very professional glossy product. On opening the box I was amazed by the amount of products that they had managed to squeeze into a fairly small box. High5 had definitely not just put the bare minimum in!
As you can see the box contained:
- 4 Energygels + of various flavours
- 8 Energygel of various flavours
- 2 Isogels
- 1 Isogel +
- 1 tube of 10 Zero tabs
- 3 individual Zero tabs of various flavours
- 1 Protein recovery drink
- 1 Energy source drink
- 1 Energy bar
- 1 Running water bottle
- 1 booklet full of advice on when and how to consume the products pre, during and post race
Actually, the box contained more than enough products for every kind of athlete, from the elite to those that would take over 5 hours to complete the marathon! But as I have said before, it is really important that you do not just use products for the first time during the race! You might find something that irritated your stomach or made you feel unwell. With this in mind I wanted to trial using all of the products before my race to see how they affected my performance.
So in the lead up to race day, during my last few long runs, I used all of the products and below is what I thought of them:
Energy Source Drink
The energy source drink comes in a variety of flavours, although if you are buying the race pack like me then you do not get to choose which flavour! The drink is similar in taste to many similar products and the advice given is that it is taken pre race to help make sure that your carb levels are fully topped up. I had the drink before a 18 mile training run about 2 hours after my porridge! It made sure that I was full hydrated and carbed up. For the full nutritional breakdown of the product please follow this link. I didn’t feel bloated after the drink and it went down really well.
I used the bottle from the box for all of the drinks and found that it was well designed for running and actually was just the right size for the mixture. I would have preferred the bottle to be slightly bigger for my hand but that is a personal issue! I normally don’t like running with a bottle and prefer a hydration pack in a rucsac but actually, I got used to this bottle quickly and ended up topping it up rather than replacing it when it was empty.
The Energy Bar
The Energy bar is supposed to be consumed just before the race, two hours after breakfast to top up carbohydrate levels as you are at the start line. I consumed mine just before starting an 18mile training run. The taste was very familiar especially if you have eaten many cereal bars. Although unlike many of them this bar was not dry and certainly was not stuffed full of sugar. It had a nice taste to it and actually tasted healthy! Just want you want before the hardest physical even of you life! Normally I would have eaten a banana before setting of but this was a good substitute.
During the Race
Energygel / Energygel +
Having never had any energy gels before I was a bit skeptical about the benefits of them. After reading a lot about gels I realised quickly that it would be the consumption of these throughout the race that would help me avoid hitting the wall, something I was desperate to do. The British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes who are competing in endurance events that last longer than 60 minutes consume 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. Physiologically, the body can not normally absorb more than 60 grams of carbs per hour anyway except in the presence of caffeine. The Solution to this may be in the introduction of caffeine in the Energygel’s which High5 call Energygel +. These gels contain 30mg of caffeine per sachet which, as well as the normal benefits of caffeine ie increase in concentration, increase in attention and increase in reaction time it has also been shown that caffeine can increase the absorption rate of carbohydrate .The High5 Energygel’s contain 23g of carbohydrates and you are advised to consume about 3 per hour (69g) but less if taking a sports drink. As my training run was going to last about 3 hours I took 9 of the gels with me. Again they come in various flavours and again with the box you do not get the choice! I found the gels light and easy to take whilst running, they were easy to open and were not sickly sweet. For the full nutritional breakdown please follow this link. I managed to consume one every 20 minutes or so for the full three hours and at no point did I every feel that I was running out of energy. I also switched 2 of the sachets for the + variety as I wanted to see if the caffeine had any effect. As a non caffeine drinker I was worried that I might get a stomach upset, but I am happy to say I felt nothing of the sort, instead I felt a mild boost mentally, but this could have been a psychosomatic reaction rather than the effect of a small amount of caffeine!
I once heard a statistic that 80% of the UK’s population is dehydrate most of the time and added to this the fact that a 2% drop in hydration levels can cause a 10% drop in performance means that starting and staying well hydrate is vital for any athlete.
Zero Sports drink
With this in mind, the Zero tabs in the race pack seem to contain everything that an athlete will need during an endurance event. No sugars (getting all of that from the gels!) but lots of electrolytes including Sodium, magnesium and potassium. Zero also contains Vitamin C but Zero calories, hence the name!
I took the tube with me on the training run and simply dropped a tab into the running bottle and topped up with water. it produced a nice light flavoured drink. Again, you will get a random flavour in the box but I tried several different flavours ( single tabs in the contents picture) and they all taste nice. The tabs fitted into the drinks bottle well and dissolved quickly. During the 3 hour run I was consuming about a bottle of water every 30 minutes so I alternated between a tab and plain water.
Having used Sports drinks and electrolyte drinks previously I felt that they did exactly what they said they where going to. I did not notice any changes in my electrolyte levels but why would I? I remained well hydrated and the tabs replaced the electrolytes that I knew I was losing through sweating so that I felt no imbalance.
After the training run, I took the protein recovery drink. This is supposed to help in your recovery by providing the body with the protein it will need to repair and replace muscle fibres damaged in the event. The drink contains why isolate which is a high quality source of protein and carbohydrates to aid in the recovery process. The drink can be mixed with water or milk. I chose water as I have previously found that milk protein drinks can be a bit too thick especially after a long training session and on an empty stomach. Mixed with water the drink managed to stay fairly light and had a nice fruity taste to it. I have found previously that these types of drinks can be very chalky but this was minimal in this variety. I consumed the drink easily and found I still had room for more water and food! I was starving!
Also in the box
Also in the box is a Marathon nutritional guide. I found this really useful, full of sound advice for the novice runner up to the elite.
The race pack has been design for elite athletes, it conforms to all WADA (world Anti Doping Association) regulations, is made from high quality ingredients but has been priced so that it is accessible for all athletes. I was so impressed with the product that I actually brought another one for the race itself and insisted my race partner purchased one as well. They can be purchased from under £10 and for whats included I think that is an absolute bargain. For any and all future endurance events I will be using this race pack as I feel it allows me to worry about 1 less thing!
My Marathon Race
I managed to finish my first marathon in a time of 5 hours and 15 minutes fully fueled and hydrated by High5. This was a massive achievement for me and has started me down the road of endurance events. The next one will be the 30km challenge of the Bear Grylls Adventure race!