Monday, 10 June 2013

Plans--Sports Beans

So as I might have mentioned before I like the idea of bringing a sugar/carb-free electrolyte drink running with me even on short runs, since I run in 25-35˚C heat and sweat a lot. As gross as it sounds, when you can feel a crust of salt on your face I think thats when you know these drinks are necessary. However, where does that leave you in terms of carbohydrates, so vital to fueling a run, especially on longer runs.

A bit of science (well I am a scientist): From my work on muscle aging during my Ph.D I had to learn a good bit about the metabolic system and in particular in relation to muscles. Our muscles make up most of our tissue mass and are also one of the biggest users and generators of energy.
Several forms of energy storage or use occur in the muscles: 
  • We have our blood-glucose, often the first to be used. 
  • We have glycogen stores that are broken down in our liver and circulated through the bloodstream to were the energy is most needed. 
  • Creatine and proteins associated with it stores and or releases energy as a sort of backup system within the muscles. 
  • Then we have fat stores which break down slower but we can train our bodies to be more efficient at this. 

Basically what most of this involves is the movement of a bunch of phosphate molecules from one protein to another to generate energy. When your body no longer has enough energy to use, thats when we run into trouble (excuse the pun!). 
So really all those energy supplements, fat burners etc. that are on the market, manipulate (or are supposed to) the energy systems within the body.

I really don't like taking any more supplements than I have to and for me the proof is always in the pudding (or this case performance). Anything that makes me feel weird is having too much of an affect for my liking. 

Generally I stick to electrolytes, post-workout protein...if I felt I worked out hard, and now some carbs for during a run. To me all of these make sense and don't interfere with the above systems in any crazy way or too directly. They don't supply anything that you wouldn't get by just eating salt/carb/protein rich foods...they're just more concentrated. 
Any reading I've done suggests that carbs just aren't necessary for any workouts less than one hour and sometimes even longer. Obviously for running a marathon you will need to keep your carb levels topped up to try minimise the impact of running out of energy stores, the point at which the dreaded wall comes into play, but for regular runs waiting until over an hour might make sense.

Instead of gels, which I hate, I'm going to run with Jelly Belly Sports Beans. They are cheap and come in a bunch of different flavors and are chewable. They supply carbs, electrolytes and some vitamins. They say to take one packet 30 minutes before activity and then take as necessary throughout exercise. They supply around 200 calories per pack and are flavored with fruit juices. To note (to help me remember too), you need to take these with water..electrolyte drink+electrolyte in the beans=too much electrolyte. I'm gonna experiment with these as my longer runs are getting past the one hour mark now. So for any runs 1 hour+ I'll see how these go. Will report back if I feel a difference or if they don't work out.

p.s feel free to contradict or add to anything I've said...I'm learning all of the time, this is all just my personal opinion 


  1. I've never tried using beans or other electrolytes while running so I'll be interested to see how you find them. Quick question for you, do you run with a water bottle or just have a drink ready for the end of your run?


    1. At the moment I take a drink, Ultima Replenisher with me on runs and also drink loads of water at the end.

  2. New follower! I just ran my first half a few weeks ago and those Sports Beans were a life saver!!!! They sell them with caffeine in them too! I also hate the gels...the texture grosses me out.


    1. Good to know..I haven't used them too much yet They taste better than gloomy gels anyhow. Well done on the half. I have one coming up in a few weeks..scary stuff!