QT: Do Sports Drinks Really Supply Your Calorie Needs on Race Day?


Most sports drinks marketed to runners claim to provide all of your calorie needs on race day.

But do they?

Hmm

Before we go too far down this path, I just want to remind you that I am a Tailwind Trailblazer (Ambassador).

So keep that in mind, for whatever you think it’s worth.

What are Your Calorie Needs Anyway?

How long are you running? How fast are you going?

Our bodies are able to hold plenty of fuel to sustain effort for 90-120 minutes. So if you’re running less than 2 hours, you literally don’t need any fuel for the run.

If you’re running longer than that, however, fueling becomes something that needs to be taken into consideration.

And we have loads of options when it comes to meeting our calorie needs: real food, sport fuel (gels, chews, etc), and/or sports drinks.

How many calories do you need while you’re running?

Point blank: you are going to run a calorie deficit while you’re running.

Our bodies can only process 200-300 calories per hour while running, so that is the approximate level of calorie consumption you need to be aiming for.

And now for the question at hand: can you meet those calorie needs simply via sports drinks?

Yes. Well, Maybe?

If you’re looking to fuel your run with fluids, I believe you can do it.

Provided, of course, that you are actually drinking enough calories.

If I had to guess, most runners don’t drink enough calories.

Most races water their sports drink down, so the calories per cup are pretty low.

But even if the drink is full potency, you’re only drinking a few ounces (at best) at each aid station.

Where are the rest of your calories coming from?

How to Get Your Calories from Fluids

I can’t tell you how many races I’ve run where I take a drink and have to check to see if I grabbed a cup of water by accident!

Disney is notorius for cutting their powerade down so much that it is basically tasteless.

And if it’s tasteless, it’s virtually void of calories as well.

If you are going to try and drink your calories for your next race or long workout, my advice is simple: mix your own.

Yes, this means you’ll have to carry it with you.

You know what else it means? That you’ll be sure you’re taking in enough calories, provided you’re drinking enough.

My Advice: Don’t Be All or Nothing

Can you get enough calories from your fluids while you’re running?

I suppose so. But the better question is, do you even want to?

From my limited experience with running ultras, I actually like the idea of doing a little of both.

As I said at the top of the post, I’m a Tailwind ambassador and the product really works well for me.

You know what else works well for me? Food.

Potato chips. Oranges. PB&J.

Am I going to eat all of the things during a marathon? Probably not.

But during an ultra? You bet!

And you know what else I’m going to be doing? Sipping my Tailwind as I go!

Seriously, there is no reason that you have to be one or the other.

Drink some sports drink. Eat some calories.

Do that, and you’ll be taking care of your nutrition needs for your next long run or race.


How Do You Prefer to Fuel on Race Day?

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2 replies
  1. ILA
    ILA says:

    Hey Denny,
    I cannot tolerate food in my stomach when I run and that has been ever since I’ve been running. It does not set well and is just awful. I use Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and it works well. Easy on the stomach and taste is minimal. I HATE gels, chews, etc. and being T2DB I have to be very careful for can’t afford to have my sugar levels bouncing around that would not be cool at all. I carry my own nutrition and water and NEVER rely on aid stations. Hammer Nutrition has sustained me from 10 miles to a 50K, and it works well for me. At the end of the day one should do what works for them.

    Reply

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