If anyone out there has the answers on fuelling for your long runs, please raise your hand…anyone? Anyone? Bueller? That's what I thought. Figuring out what works for you is often best summed up as a guessing game and can seem like you're shooting at a moving target. There's a plethora of informative reading on the interwebs about the topic, but in the end it really comes down to applying the concepts to the individual…something most of us just aren't all that great at doing.
I recently heard about a company called Fuelstrip that were putting a new spin on the fuelling equation…they were making it based on your individual real-time results. Fuelstrip uses testing strips to give you personalized real-time feedback about where your glycogen levels are by testing your sweat…pretty neat idea, right? It is our glycogen stores that our bodies feed off of during runs (or rides, or whatever your workout of choice is) and the only hope we have of sustaining high-level performance is to keep on top of our fuelling and refill our glycogen tanks before our body relies on fat and muscle for fuel. That may sound good because you think you are getting rid of those love handles, but it just isn't the case…your body is likely going to go after muscle first. Plus it just isn't a good source of quick energy as it takes a long time for the body to extract it, compared to our glycogen stores that are more of a quick-release…kind of like paying at the store with your bank card versus waiting in line to see a bank teller to withdraw your cash and then going to the store to make your purchase.
What Fuelstrip has developed is a sweat-activated test strip that you simply swab against your sweaty area of choice, check for your results and then decide if fuelling is required and if so, how much. If you have a pool or hot tub, these strips are just like the test strips you use to get your chemical levels correct…that was my first thought anyways. The Fuelstrip has four different colours which represent different stages of activity…orange, yellow, green and blue.
Along with the colour changing based on the composition of your sweat, there are recommendations on the number of chews you should take to keep those glycogen levels high. Fuelstrip also make their own chews and sport drink that they recommend using, but you should be fine using whatever product you are most comfortable with.
I received some strips and chews from Fuelstrip to try out and I decided to give it a go the other day on the bike trainer, knowing that I would work up a really good sweat. I would have done it on a longer run outside, which is where I would get the most use out of the strips, but it has been so cold that I don't really sweat when running outside…well I do sweat, but I'm so bundled up that I can't access my sweat (if that makes sense??). So I setup my bikeside table with my Fuelstrips and chews and I was ready to go.
Fuelstrip suggests that you take your workout, divide it in 4 and that gives you your testing intervals…so if you are going to be out running for 2 hours, then you will want to test your sweat every 30 minutes. I was planning on riding for about an hour, so I would test my sweat every 15 minutes.
It was really easy to use; I just grabbed a strip, swiped it across my sweaty forehead and waited for the result. After 15 minutes I was still orange (as I expected I would be), so I just grabbed one chew and kept spinning. The chews were pretty good too…I had mixed berry flavour and I didn't mind the taste or the texture. Overall they were "pleasant", which for a sport chew is high praise from me (not usually a big fan).
Another 15 minutes and a lot more sweat later, it was time for another swipe. This time it seemed to be a little more yellow than orange. The instructions say that if there are traces of two colours then you go with the higher number, so two chews in this case. Here's where my issue is with the strips though…I'm a little bit colour blind. While I know the colour orange as well as the colour yellow, I have one heck of a time telling them apart. I know I'm by no means the majority here, but I would love if there was a second way of telling which level you were in that wasn't dependent upon colour. Declan commented on Instagram that it was kind of like an exercise pregnancy test, and jokes aside it would be great if a line would appear four each level you were in…for example, the green stage would have 3 black lines show up, which would also indicate that you should take 3 chews. Just a thought Fuelstrip!
I really like the idea of Fuelstrips…it is certainly something that I would use on long runs to get a better understanding of what my fuel strategy should be. I'm looking forward to trying it out once the weather improves and I can access my sweat. Like so many runners, I have experienced the bonk…I have hit the wall…and it s.u.c.k.s. Fuelling (properly) is one of the best defenses against bonking, but it really is a mystery to me. This is a tool that I will use to help me get a handle on proper fuelling and who knows where that will take me. When I ran the Chicago Marathon in October I hit the wall at mile 23, 5K from the finish line. It really is like slamming into a wall at full speed. If I had avoided that it is very likely that I would have qualified for Boston (I missed by 5 minutes), and I vowed that I would do a better job of fuelling from that point on. If you are looking to try and solve your own fuel problems, I say give Fuelstrips a shot.
If you are interested in trying Fuelstrips you can purchase them from fuelstrip.com or you can enter our giveaway below to win a tube of strips and a package of mixed berry chews. To enter leave a comment below letting us know how you would use Fuelstrips in your training. Extra entries for following us and/or sharing the giveaway on Twitter!
Contest Closes February 4 at 11:59pm. Winner to be revealed in February 5th post. I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.