5K Fueling

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5K Fueling

Postby andygarner » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:41 pm

Hi Steve,
Hammer Nutrition has carried me through another great USAC cycling season. Now I'm looking forward to autumn gran fondos.

Anyway, I'm not a runner, but am planning to run four 5K events with my 9 year-old daughter this fall. I routinely use Hammer HEED, Perpetuem, Endurolytes, Fizz, and RDB so I'm familiar with all those products.

My question is, all the events start too early in the morning to have a meal 3 hours prior: Can you recommend a 5K fueling strategy?

As always, your feedback is always appreciated!
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Re: 5K Fueling

Postby steve-born » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:10 am

Hello Andy -

Unless you're as slow a runner as I am (and I am pretty darn slow), the "no eating 3 hours prior" rule doesn't apply. The reason is that if you've been consistent with post-workout refueling, you'll have built up a nice reservoir of muscle glycogen, up to anywhere around 60-90 minutes worth. That should be more than sufficient to get you through your 5K... it's highly unlikely that you'd need anything more than water.

In the article Proper Fueling - Pre-workout & race suggestions (, particularly the section entitled, "Are there any exceptions to the three-hour rule?" I wrote the following:

When you’re engaged in training sessions or races in the 90-minute range or shorter (personally, I prefer an hour limit), fasting three hours prior to the start is not necessary. Consuming some easily digested calories an hour or two prior to the start will not negatively affect performance, and may actually enhance it. Here’s why:

As we’ve discussed earlier, when you consume calories sooner than three hours prior to the start of a workout or race, you accelerate the rate at which your body burns its finite amounts of muscle glycogen stores. In events lasting longer than 60-90 minutes, refraining from calorie consumption for the three-hour period prior to the start is crucial because you want to preserve your glycogen stores, not accelerate their depletion. Muscle glycogen is the first fuel that the body will use when exercise commences, and your body only has a limited supply of this premium fuel. If your workout or race goes beyond the 60-90 minute mark, you don't want to do anything that will accelerate muscle glycogen utilization.

However, when you consume calories within three hours of a race, that's exactly what will happen; you'll increase the rate at which your glycogen is burned.

During shorter distance races, however, accelerated rates of glycogen depletion/utilization are not problematic. You don’t need the calories for energy, but the presence of carbohydrates will elevate glycogen utilization. In a short race, that’s what you want.

Dr. Misner explains that prior to shorter-duration bouts of exercise, “consuming a few easily digested carbohydrates [such as a serving or two of HEED or Hammer Gel] will advance performance, because carbohydrates consumed prior to exercise make the body super-expend its glycogen stores like a flood gate wide open." In other words, if you eat something 1-2 hours prior to the start of a short-duration training session or race, thus causing the insulin "flood gates" to open, yes, you will be depleting your glycogen stores at maximum rates. However, at this distance it’s a beneficial effect, as glycogen depletion is not an issue when the workout or race is over within at most 90 minutes.

This advice assumes that you have been effectively refueling your body after each workout, as this is the primary way to increase muscle glycogen (see the article Recovery - A Crucial Component For Success - - for details).

Bottom line: Fast three hours prior to the start of a longer-duration event (60-90+ minutes). For shorter events, consuming a small amount of fuel an hour to two prior to the start may enhance performance.

--- END ---

If it were me doing a 5K, I'd follow that advice, sipping on a bottle of HEED prior to the race (and making sure I saved enough time for a pre-race bathroom break). Then, if I know I'm going to finish within 60-90 minutes, I would probably need nothing except water during the race (though carrying a pouch of Hammer Gel, just in case, wouldn't be a bad idea).

Hope this helps.

Sincerely -

Steve Born
Fueling Expert
Event Sponsorship Coordinator
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Re: 5K Fueling

Postby andygarner » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:33 am

Perfect. Thanks for your quick reply! Running is a new venture for me, but one I enjoy with my daughter. I'll follow your advice to the letter.

I've been cycling since 1988. A few years ago I read your articles, "The Top 10 - The Biggest Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make" and "15 Simple Ways to Improve Your Athletic Performance Right Now." This information REVOLUTIONIZED my nutritional approach to cycling. After 20 years of cycling, to say I'd hit a plateau would be an understatement. Your guidance and premium products took me to the next level.

Thanks again!
Andy G.
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Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:49 am
Location: Nashville, TN

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