Experts say there are many benefits to consuming sports drinks during exercise. Those benefits were discovered in 1977 when Robert Cade, a physician at the University of Florida created the first sports drink. He figured out that adding electrolyte minerals and carbohydrates to water would help with fluid replacement and provide an energy source to working muscles which would enhance the athletes performance and delay fatigue better than plain water. He called this drink Gatorade. The rest is history.


I don’t use sports drinks when I run long distances for two reasons:

  •    my water bottle leaks a bit and makes me sticky
  •     I get hungrier when I just use sports drinks

So, what is the alternative to what has been proven to be beneficial? Energy gels or blocks in combination with water. NEVER do both gels and sports drinks. The combined carbohydrate concentration is more than your body can absorb. Trust me when I tell you it will cause severe intestinal distress. My last marathon I did both and I was horribly uncomfortable the last 5 miles praying the race would end soon. After a really long hour-long ride home, I spent the rest of the day in the potty. Enough said.


Just remember, if you choose to use a carbohydrate gel, block, shot or jelly bean be sure to wash it down with water to aid your body in the absorption. As with anything that you do on race day, be sure to practice on your training runs with your choice of energy support.


I have tried several different products over the years. The first sources that came out years ago were Power Gels and Cliff Shots. I found them effective for running support, but I had intolerance for the consistency and literally gagged them down. I moved on to several other products. My current favorites are Clif Bloks, Sports Beans and Power Bar Energy Blasts.



How do I decide which to use? Well, for marathons I like to bring Clif Bloks, because I have less to chew and they pack a little better and take up less room. For shorter runs like a half I like the Sport beans because they are tasty and are like a little treat. I really only have to eat two bags.Lately I have been using the Power Bar Energy Blasts for my shorter training runs for a change of pace. They are tasty and work well.


The bottom line is that you need to try different products until you find the one that works best for you. Things to consider when deciding are:



This can really vary. Some products can be as much as $2.50 each. This can really add up when you are training for a long race like a marathon. You will be taking a lot of these during your training.



Some can be very sweet or super rich, which can upset your stomach while running.



Some of the energy products have caffeine in them. If you don’t typically drink caffeinated beverages these products might make you jittery. The consistency of the product can cause tolerance issues. As I mentioned the shot products gag me. Others find these products preferable for how quick they are to take.



Some of my favorite products are often hard to find. For example, the Sports Beans I can only find at running stores. Until recently the nearest running store was 20 minutes away. Which meant I had to buy large amounts at one time or go weekly to the store. When training for a marathon I might go through 4 bags a week. So, when you find something that works, make sure you have a good source,or be willing to stock up large amounts.



Another reason I like the Sports Beans is that they have a pretty good selection of flavors so I can mix it up. Typically I will buy both Sports Beans and Clif Bloks in a variety of flavors so I can vary them during my training.


Try a different products, see what works for you. Happy Running!