One study concludes that taking gels at regular intervals during a marathon can help lower finishing times.
Does taking gels during a marathon help runners’ finishing times? A new study examines this question ahead of Sunday’s New York City Marathon.
The New York Times reported on the study’s findings, which suggest that taking in more carbohydrates in the form of gels during a race—and not necessarily during the week of the race—could lower your time.
The old way to nutritionally prepare for a marathon was to carbo-load the week of the race by eating heaping amounts of pasta. But that, researchers have concluded in recent years, can lead to GI distress and weight gain in the days before a race. And it’s just not necessary.
Now scientists say eating a bowl of pasta and other forms of carbohydrate the day before a big race is enough. And during the 26.2-mile journey, they say to consume gels at regular intervals.
The study worked with 28 runners in Denmark who were training for the Copenhagen Marathon. One group of runners relied on their own nutritional practices during the race, while the other group followed guidelines set by the researchers: Consume two gels and 1-2 glasses of water shortly before the race, take another gel 40 minutes into the race and another one every 20 minutes thereafter. Hydration-wise, the researchers had those runners drink 1-2 cups of water at each of the 10 aid stations along the course.
After the race, researchers concluded the runners who followed the more strict guidelines consumed more carbohydrate during the race and beat their time-matched partner in the other group by an average of 10 minutes. Most of them also ran faster than their goal times.
So if you’re running New York this weekend, don’t forget to take your gels.