When I trekked Annapurna Circuit and Base Camp in Nepal, I prided myself on having a stomach of steel. Prior to exercise, I can still eat just about anything right before going out and not feel sick. But when I started doing longer triathlons and runs, I found that sometimes if I wasn’t careful, I could get nauseous when I drank certain products. On the New York City Marathon course, they serve Gatorade and during the later miles, when I’d run out of my own drink, it bloated my stomach and made me nauseous. Later, I found out that Gatorade has wheat in it so it’s not gluten-free, which could have been the cause of the bloating problem. Then I started with the Hammer products because it seemed more natural with easily digestible sugars. I had to use unflavored electrolyte drink because I found the others way too sweet. And when I used Hammer Perpetuem on a few long bike rides, I wanted to puke and once again my stomach bloated. I liked the Clif products because of the good ingredients but really needed to find a product line that had a protein drink that I could add in for long distance. I had to find something that worked or I was going to be in some serious nutritional trouble or the bonk zone.
I found Ironman triathlete Amanda Lovato when I searched for an athlete with GI issues and she used First Endurance Products, which are actually gluten-free. I figured I’d give them a try especially since liquid calories are my preference. For gels and gummies, I can tolerate just about all of them (Gu, Clif gels or blocks, EFS Liquid Shot, Power Bar, Honey Stingers, etc.) but I watch the caffeine and try to only use that when I feel I need it. I also pick my flavors based on consistency and ease and find I like gels that are more liquid than like cake batter.
The most important lesson here is test out your nutrition plan during your training. You may find that what works for you in a short race does not work when you do a longer race. Find out what they are serving on in your race and make sure you have some backup of your own choices in the transition area. Work out a plan ahead of time so you know when you should be eating and drinking at certain times–this also keeps your mind in check. If you screw up your nutrition in a long race, then you lessen your chances of finishing, not to mention that you could feel terrible.