QT: Do Sports Drinks Provide Enough Race Day Fuel? (Best Of-ish)

Denny Krahe
4 min readOct 23, 2020

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

But do they?

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 (read: glucose) to sustain activity for 90–120 minutes. So if the duration of your run is in that window, you literally don’t need any extra fuel during your run.

If you’re running longer than that, however, mid-run 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 fuels (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 a couple of hundred 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 notorious for cutting their Power-Ade 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.

Do 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.

Tailwind works really well for me, and it is my go-to on race day.

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 on 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 Get Your Required Fuel on Race Day?

This post is accompanied by an episode of my podcast, Diz Runs Radio.

Click this link to listen to me talk more about sports drinks.

Subscribe on your favorite podcast app to get new episodes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Originally published at http://www.dizruns.com on October 23, 2020.