Marathon Nutrition during a Race – Gels or Wholefoods?

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So your out on the trails running your marathon or ultra. What’s your source of Nutrition? Gels or Wholefoods?

Here’s my take on what is the best source of Nutrition and why Gels really aren’t that great at all.

So what’s so good about Gels?

I won’t ever forget the time I used a couple of Energy Gels for a race. I didn’t really know much about race Nutrition at the time but they were giving away free ones at the start of the race so I thought what the hell, let’s do it. 

The first one I ripped open and ate I was like ‘what the hell have I just eaten here’. It was a gooey sugary nightmare. The taste was awful, I gagged at the consistency and my hands and mouth were a complete sticky mess (and so was my bag with the empty sachets). To this day I have never had another one.

Now don’t get me wrong, they have their benefits:


  • They have added Electrolytes
  • Caffeine can be added to some gels
  • They are easy to open
  • They are easy to carry
  • They are absorbed and digested easily


  • Need to be taken with water or dehydration can occur
  • Some don’t taste very nice
  • A lot of runners get bad stomachs with over consumption (nasty)
  • They are sticky and it gets everywhere
  • They are not that cheap
  • You need quite a few on a long run

So what about the Wholefoods?

Since my experience with the gels I decided to go with the Wholefood (mostly) when I’m on the trail running Marathons or Ultras. Why? Because I feel great using them and I never ever get an upset stomach or covered in a minging sticky Gel. I also find that I don’t seem to hit the wall during a race and my energy levels are fairly stable.

Now at this point I have to admit, there is one product that I do use that is just the best damn thing I have used on any run of over an hour. That one product is Tailwind©. Seriously, this stuff is amazing. So here’s why:

Tailwind mixes with water to meet all your calorie, hydration, and electrolyte needs, without upsetting your stomach or making your taste buds revolt. Just toss it in a bottle or hydration pack, shake, and GO!

  • Complete calories, electrolytes, and hydration: Ditch the gels, chews, and pills, and go all day with just Tailwind.
  • No gut bombs: Stomach problems? You’ll love Tailwind. Unless you enjoy being doubled over, retching.
  • Tasty all day: Clean, light flavors taste better the longer you go.
  • Hydration pack love: Dissolves on contact with water and cleans up with a quick rinse. No film, aftertaste or science experiments!
  • All natural: Crystal clear with no dyes, preservatives or 4-syllable magical ingredients.
  • No dairy content so suitable for Vegans

I actually use this to go along with the wholefoods as it’s an easy way to get those calories in. If your out for 7 or 8 hours you will understand.

Along with that what are the best wholefoods?

Coconut Water
Sodium is one electrolyte the body sweats out, but there are many others. Coconut water gets the nod because it’s a great source of the “big five” electrolytes: calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous.



One medium banana contains nearly 30 grams of fast-digesting carbohydrates that can be just as effective as a carbohydrate drink.




Baby Food
Its strengths are digestibility and portability. I have found Ella’s fruit and baby rice to be the best  because it’s 100% Vegan.



Easy to chew and higher in simple sugars and carbohydrates than other dried fruit, dates are also a good source of potassium.

Dried Fruit

Raisins, tropical trail mix and dates give you quick energy, are inexpensive and also provide your body with essential nutrients such as beta carotene, iron, magnesium and potassium.

Of course on the Trail Marathons or Ultras you will find plenty of aid stations. Sometimes difficult to get all nutrition from them if you are Vegan, but there is always fruit.

Are you a Gel or Whole Food runner, or maybe you have a different way to fuel. Let me know in the comments what your best race day Nutrition is and what bad experiences you may have had with certain foods or energy supplements.


  1. I completely agree with you about those Gels, they are extremely GROSS! I told my partner never again I like to keep my insides in where they belong. Tailwind though is a runners dream. I actually use them for other stuff besides running too, when you are out mowing big yards or out in the field bringing in hay bales they work awesome too. There are always a couple packets in my bag. This is an awesome post by the way! You tell it like it is great job!

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