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How many Gels do I need to take for a Marathon.

Posted by Damian McKeever on

Nutrition is a minefield and everyone has their own opinion on it. Who is qualified to talk about it? I'd suggest people who have spend 4+ years of their life studying it are best placed to give you advice on it.

However here is what we see happening regularly in store and this is the advice that we tend to give customers. I am open to corrections and would like to point out that I am not a sports nutritionist or Dietician or anything closely related to that. This is just what we see regularly with our customers coming in store.


So the theory goes that your body can only store so much glycogen in your muscles, after that your body is going to need some more energy inputed from you. Now there is another theory that you can set your body to burn fat as a fuel source but most people would agree that you need to know what you're doing here and train your body to do this by doing fasted run or bike sessions so your body is rewired to run off fat. I'd suggest speaking to a nutritionist regarding this.

However for most people who just want to know that eternal question "How many Gels do I need for the marathon" there is no easy answer. We are all very different and we all process food and energy different from everyone else. Lance Armstrong ran the New York marathon with a strategy of a Gel every 12 minutes, most of the brands suggest one every 20 minutes. Personally I think this is a huge amount, I'm not small at 94kg i'm pretty heavy for a runner however I take a gel after 90 minutes and one every hour after that and this works for me. Last year I tried to take one after only 30 minutes as someone had told me about the theory that the stomach shuts down if you don't put food in there early in the run. This didn't work for me and for the first time in a marathon I suffered with stomach cramps. I ignored my own advice and tried something i'd never done before on race day! 

The golden rule with Nutrition on race day is practice try it out in training and see how it feels. Remember when you're buying Gels one brand is very different to another so just because you can take a "Gel" doesn't mean you can take all Gels. Some have Caffeine in them others don't make sure especially with Caffeine that you have tried that out before.

The biggest mistake with nutrition we see from first time marathon runners is they ran their long run of 20 miles and they had no need for taking Gels or nutrition of any sort so they should be fine doing the last 6 miles. Most people will need to take something on board whether that's a Banana or home made flap jack or a gel try and practice taking something on board.

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