runDisney: Thinking About Race Fuel and Hydration

runDisney is fabulous at getting people off the couch and training to run any of their exciting and unique race events. However one thing many previous non-athletes don't understand is that completing an endurance race isn't just about covering a distance, but a need to fuel your body properly so that you can make it across the finish line in the upright position. A steadfast rule of endurance sports is "Nothing New On Race Day," this means that while you're training for your runDisney race-cation, you also need to be coming up with a sustainable plan to fuel your run.

runDisney Endurance Race Fuel and HydrationrunDisney Endurance Race Fuel and Hydration

It's not about how far you go, it's about the time it takes you to do so. I often hear slower runners and walkers talk about their training in apologetic terms for their lack of speed. I know I'm guilty of it. What that doesn't take into consideration is that with a slower pace, your body needs to build a greater endurance for the time you spend exerting yourself. While the needs of every runner are different, a good rule of thumb is that a body needs a fuel boost for every 45 minutes to an hour of exercise.

The need for endurance fuel becomes even more apparent when one considers the high energy dancing and party-like atmosphere that happens prior to the runDisney races. Even when talking about shorter runDisney distances (such as the 5K) a runner that completes it in 20 minutes may not need to think about fueling for that race, but, someone who will be on the course for 45 minutes should probably consider some targeted nutrition. It's something that I didn't consider when I did my first runDisney 5K, and once out on the course I quickly discovered I had danced away a lot of energy stores pre-race.

Know Where Your Water And Fuel Stops Will BeKnow Where Your Water And Fuel Stops Will Be

Eating Before A Run

Get used to eating something 1-3 hours before you run. Take your training time to figure out what sort of foods sit easiest in your stomach before a workout, that you will be also able to get at Walt Disney World. For me, a cup of coffee and a peanut-butter bagel gets the job done, plus it's something that can be easily packed into my suitcase or picked up on site. Other popular pre-run breakfast foods include cereal or oatmeal with a banana, eggs and toast with powerade, or yogurt parfaits.

The best thing that you can do during your training process is to experiment with different types of fuel. Going into your race already knowing how your body will handle the nutrition you are using gives you the confidence to perform at your best.

Fueling During A Run

You want to keep two things in mind while fueling during your run; 1) hydration and electrolytes that will be lost through sweating and 2) carbohydrates to provide calories that you body converts in energy. Disney provides water stations with Dasani and (sometimes) Powerade on all of its courses. For the Half Marathon and Marathon, a fueling station with Cliff Shots is also available. If you want to stick with what Disney offers on course, you should give these products a try to see how you tolerate them during your training. I prefer fueling to be on my own terms, so I'm training to carry my favorite race fuel and a water bottle with me.

I'm not a fan of brightly colored, super sweet and cloying sports drinks, but I need more than just water to get me through longer races and workouts. I've discovered Nuun Hydration: Electrolyte Drink Tablets, Juicebox Mix, Box of 4 Tubes, which are a tablet that can be broken in half and stuck into any water bottle. Nuun is very light in flavor, low in calories and sugar, certified gluten free, vegan, non-GMO sourced, soy/dairy free, and safe for clean sport. Nuun has electrolytes to replenish what you lose through sweating, and varieties in their Nuun Energy line include caffeine and b vitamins.

Energy Gel packs, such as Cliff Shots, GU, and Honey Stinger Gels are single serving packs of energy-dense calories designed to sustain the caloric demands of your body. These products have a gel or pudding-like consistency and come in a broad range of flavors. They are designed to be quickly sucked down and easily absorbed into your system for a boost to your energy stores.

For texture eaters that dislike the gel consistency, several companies make race fuel as gummies or jelly bean chews. I prefer to chew my race fuel and enjoy GU Energy Chews in a variety of flavors. My favorite thing about GU Chews is that the flavors are light and not prone to the candy chemical notes that some others have. In addition to carbohydrates, GU Chews help to restore electrolytes and contain branched-chain amino acids that may reduce mental fatigue and decrease muscle damage.

runDisney After Race Snack BoxrunDisney After Race Snack Box

Eating After You Finish

Once you finish a long work-out you need to focus on giving your body the nutrients that it needs to recover. Replenish your hydration and within 30 minutes try to get some protein into your body to help your muscles recover and rebuild. While you'll be given a post-race snack box at the end of the race, I suggest putting something you are familiar with in your bag-check pouch. My favorite post-run snack is Planters P3 Protein Packs, during training I always have one of these in my gym bag to cut down on post-workout fast food cravings. Walt Disney World is home to some truly fabulous restaurants as well, so make a plan for a big brunch with family and friends to celebrate after you cross the finish line.

I hope that this has opened your mind to thinking about race fuel and nutrition a little more no matter what level of performance you are at. If you haven't tried fueling during your training yet, you may be amazed at how much better you feel. Remember the rule - Nothing New On Race Day - so head off to your local sport store and pick up a few types of race fuel to experiment with.

Happy Running!

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