Summer has certainly made itself known on the roads and trails. With soaring temps, rising humidity, and hours of Sun. All the conditions that come along with Summer can actually help make you a stronger runner. But you have to be able to survive the environment. As beneficial as heat training and Summer running can be, it can require some tweaks to your fueling strategy. Here’s some helpful reminders to keep you logging the miles, and to ensure you’re successful in fueling for Summer running.
Related Post: Surviving Summer: Running in Heat & Humidity
The truth is, Summer running is just different. The heat and humidity require changes in running gear, goals, training plans, and fueling. The same conditions that make pool season possible also increase your rate as you run, making your training more effortful even if paces don’t change. For most of us, it also means sweating a whole lot more, increasing our need for electrolyte replenishment. And while you may love all the extra UV rays, your body will work to try and cool itself by shunting blood away from your digestive system, making fueling just a little more tricky.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful Summer training season. It just means that the fueling strategy that worked for you in the Fall and Winter months will probably need to be altered a bit to help you keep running without experiencing all of the fun of GI distress.
Fueling for Summer Fueling
Dehydration is your stomach’s worst enemy. A dry stomach is an angry stomach. And not a cute angry, more like a cat that just got thrown in a bathtub angry. Your stomach is already having a harder time processing fuel with the limited blood supply, so don’t make its job any more difficult. Your body will have an easier time regulating temperature in general, as well, if you are well hydrated.
But don’t chug water like a frat boy downing room temperature beer out of a Solo cup. If you do, you’ll probably end up with that great sloshing feeling in your stomach for a few miles. And drinking too much water all at once can really throw off your electrolyte balance. Focus on drinking more frequently, rather than increasing the quantity during your water breaks. Also, make sure you are taking a few good drinks any time you take in fuel. It helps break your fueling down before it reaches your stomach, making digestion easier.
You should consider upgrading your hydration system. If you normally get away with running without water, look into a convenient handheld bottle. If 14-20oz isn’t enough to get your through your runs anymore, it might be a good time to grab a hydration vest.
Related Post: Complete Guide to Running Fuel
While we’re on the subject of drinking a little extra water with our fuel, consider mixing a gel with 8-10oz of water in a handheld bottle and drinking it instead of eating. This is a trick some ultramarathon runners use to help ensure they are taking in enough water to help break down their fuel. If that doesn’t sound super appealing to you, don’t be afraid to split up one serving. Just because your fuel is packaged into 100-250 calorie portions doesn’t mean your stomach is able to handle that amount all at once. If you find yourself on the GI struggle bus, and the thought of eating turns your stomach, try taking small bites over the course of a mile, rather than all at once. It’s not ideal to hold onto a packet of gu, but I’d say throwing up on the side of the trail is worse.
Also, be cautious when it comes to caffeinated fuels. Caffeine can be a great performance enhancer, and honestly it’s a drug I’m not willing to kick anytime in the near future. But it can be irritating to the stomach, especially if the stomach is already having a hard time. If you love caffeinated fuels, I’d encourage you to carry at least one backup option that is not caffeinated on every run, just in case.
Consider Liquid Calories
Sometimes traditional fueling sources just don’t work well with our bodies in the heat. If you’ve increased your water intake, and are still finding it difficult to keep gu’s, gels, or chews down, liquid calories might be a good option for you. Fuels like Tailwind or Nuun Endurance are designed to mix with water; which helps you ensure your hydration is adequate.
They can also be easier on the stomach since liquid broken down much more efficiently in the gut. It’s also a lot easier to split up servings of liquid calories when you’re struggling to keep fuel down; instead of ingesting 100 calories all at once, you can take small sips more frequently. Most liquid calorie sources also have built in electrolytes, which can help further prevent the impacts of dehydration. I’ve run several 15-26 mile runs using liquid calories as my soul fueling source, and I can honestly say that I didn’t feel any less fueled than when I’ve gels or chews.
But if liquid calories are just not your cup of tea, you need to make sure you pay attention to replenishing your electrolytes. Your body loses sodium and potassium any time you sweat, and not replenishing those electrolytes can mean feeling like you’ve had your soul sucked right out of your body for the rest of the day. I always encourage my running clients to use sea salt to season their food, since it is a great source of electrolytes, and can be used daily to keep your body balanced.
But before and after particularly challenging runs (you know, the kind that leave you sweating like a Sasquatch on the beach), you’re probably going to need to supplement a little more. This is where products like Nuun Hydration and Liquid IV can really come in handy. And if flavor-enhanced water isn’t your jam, use a SaltStick tab instead. Make sure you are taking in additional electrolytes before AND after Summer runs, especially if you are living in a humid climate.
Now that you’ve got the basics of Summer fueling squared away, you need to also make sure you fuel well after your runs. Like we’ve covered, your body loses more electrolytes and water during Summer runs than it does during cooler seasons. Which means it is more depleted. A lot of runners also report feeling more nauseated after hot runs, making it even more difficult to refuel well.
If you’re not interested in a burger and fries immediately after your Summer long runs, try making sure you get in some calories from sources like juicy fruit (hello watermelon!), popsicles, or a smoothie. Again, focus on more frequent, smaller meals if you’re struggling to eat. Not refueling can certainly prolong the recovery process, leaving you feeling like hot death for longer period of time.
And lastly, have patience. It can take a few weeks for your stomach to adjust to the changing seasons. Summer running can be tough, but it will definitely make you’re a stronger, more resilient runner. So give some of these tips a try, and let me know what you’ve found helpful to keep you running through Summer.