Running Diabetes: Fueling, carbs and the long runs Part 2

I am Type 1 diabetic runner. Which means that I am insulin dependent which I receive in specific doses via an insulin pump. I am not going to cover what diabetes is or the difference between the types and other general stuff here. There are plenty of really good information available, you can take a look in sites like The American Diabetes Association, JDRF (Juvinile Diabetes Research Foundation), WebMD, TuDiabetes, DLife and others. Here I will like talk about how I manage my sugars and diabetes while training, running and racing. For that purpose I have divided the topic in several segments, from basic to some running details.


If you missed part one here is the link. Now to continue the conversation about fueling Pre-, during and post training/events.


Sometime ago I read in a running forum one contributor that post about his approach to fueling during events. The runner talked about using the same fuel/gel all the time for training and events. He knew exactly how it affected the performance but it was getting a little bit stale around the flavor and taste especially on longer runs. I posted a comment about my current approach in which I have five different flavors that works for me, even different brands that I was using during my training runs. I know how I react for each one of them. (Some of them very similar since the content and make of some gel is very similar.

But after answering, it got me thinking about more how I approach the type of fuel on those longer runs. In my early running days when I was training for my first marathon I used to use the same fuel gel that I liked all the time. But there is no rule that you have to use the same fuel or stick to only one brand or type. This is where experimentation during your training runs and taking notes about it becomes very important. Depending of what you want to achieve you should develop your personal approach to fueling. Maybe you like/need the fuel that will get the sugars higher faster or one that will just get you going with smaller increments or hold steady the current glucose numbers. Also there is a difference between the content, make or ingredients, example of this is if the fuel is a caffeinated one.  Those caffeinated gels might serve a specific purpose. You want to select the right fuel and when you want to use it.

For me, it has been always come to what I like and settles well in my stomach, specially on those longer runs and strategically use the type and carb amount to match what I need. Keep in mind that since you are going to find out what works well in what situation you will have an opportunity to formulate a strategy for the approach. For example, in my case on races/events and longer runs, the first 8-10 miles, I start with high carb, non-caffeinated gels. Then past the mid-point or later in the race I will alternate one of two gels with caffeine for extra boost and help. This is especially helpful when my legs are tired and I might feel a little bit beaten by the long distance.  That extra energy boost will arrive when I needed the most to be able to complete the workout or get to the finish line with enough energy to finish with a nice smile.

Too many options

A great way to try products without having to break the bank is to attend event expos. At the expos sometime they will have samples that you can try taste and if you are lucky sometimes you will get to take with you and have a few to try during the event (Which I do not recommend since you should not try anything new to you at the event.) or during your training runs. Also during the event, especially for long events (Halfs, Fulls and sometimes 10ks) they will offer samples along the way. Especially for those events that I am not pursuing PB/PRs, I normally grab one or two gels if the gel flavors are not the ones that I normally use to save them for my longer training runs to try.

Also, I keep looking for when they go on sale at running sport stores, specially the old ones (They are still good you know). I was lucky once there were some gels that were about to expire and the store discounted the price by more than half. I selected a few new possible candidates that I used during the next 4-5 long runs. Also by knowing the price/cost I browse the web from time to time to take the opportunities of flash sales, coupons ans bulk sales to stock up my favorite ones.

In the case that the event is offering the same brand and flavors I have used in the past and are ok for me, I know that I can carry less fuel with me, reducing the weight I carry. (Hey, an ounce is an ounce, no need to carry it for extra 26.2 miles just for the fun of it)

Always take note on your journal, running log, online notes so you can go back an review what worked best. Practice the timing and test during multiple runs, the trick is to hone in the strategy. When I started using fuel I was using distance as the trigger for consumption. Every 4 miles I was using a gel. After some time, using distance as the trigger point, I notice that it was not necessary working perfect for me. I switched to use time as a trigger for furling, about every 40 minutes regardless of the distance that I have covered. That started to work better for me, but I know it is still not perfect and I will need to continue to try very small adjustments and tactics. Recently I have be skipping the last fuel if I know I have 4 miles or less and my sugars are holding steady.

The drink as a fuel

For non-gel fueling, I follow similar approach in selecting what works for me. Specially during the longer runs and during summer time weather when I tend to need more fluids and electrolytes. Similar to the gels, I bought some sample pouches, got them on expos or at the events to try a variety of them. Normally for marathons I will carry a bottle with energy drink, for which I know how many carbs I am carrying based on the scoops I used. I used to also carry a bottle for the half, but now I am more comfortable with how I manage my sugars using gels and conditions during that event taking water of energy drinks at the water stations. For the full marathon distance I am still figuring out a few things, especially in the later part of the events. I use E-fuel from Crank sports although I have used other energy drinks like Gatorade, Power-zero (0g Carbs), Cytomax and others. Again similar to what I did with the gels, taste and how your body reacts to the fuel are key to selecting what works for you. Take notes to determine how and when you are going to use water or the energy drink strategically with a purpose.

Bolus insulin anyone?

For bolus adjustments during long runs and races I still follow my running sugars table as a starting reference to what type of adjustment I will have to do in addition to the amount of carbs I ingested. Keep in mind that contrary to when I eat meals during normal days, I will ingest the fuel 1st and then figure out the bolus adjustment. The reason for this is that the fuel I am consuming is to help me for latter in the run/event I will make sure I get that energy in early on, not necessary for the right now but for later. Then I figure out what bolus will be needed. Another thing I take in consideration is how far am I from finishing in terms of aid stations, distance and time that it will take me to get there. You might have to strategize the how, what and when take fuel and bolus adjustments for it.

I typically will not bolus the full amount during my long runs when I fuel. Having that understanding and learning as much as possible from your long runs it will help you then perform better during races/events. I definitely take as much information in consideration when bolusing; I might just do half of what normally put for the carbs amounts or 3/4 of what I normally do depending on the carbs count of the fuel, sugars trend, location of the event, distance from the finish or water station and current sugars.  For example, if my normal bolus adjustment calls for 3-4 units I will start considering 1-2 units, knowing the way my body reacts to insulin during the runs. Very rarely during long or workouts and events at fueling I will do the full bolus amount. Only when I am in the later part of the event or training session and the sugars are running on the top ranges is when I start considering adjusting for the full amount.

Fueling for


For pre-event/race or pre-workout fueling, normally, I try to eat a known amount of carbs, very specific. I don’t deviate much from that breakfast which is a serving of hot cereal either cream of wheat or oatmeal in addition to my morning coffee at least more than an hour prior to the event. I know the bolus adjustment and how my body reacts to. I use, once again, the learning from the past and reference the running sugars table. That way I can better control the start and have better chances of a good workout or event. In addition to that I’ll have a banana about 45-30 minutes or so as a final fuel in preparation for the event. I have notice that on event mornings, I do not know if it is because I get nervous or anxious, my sugars remain on the high side. I will do some additional bolus adjustment in this situations but not necessary a full adjustment.


After those long exhausting runs, I keep an close look at the last few fuel intake and take a look at my CGMS. I will grab something that is being offered at the end of the event or sometimes if I know my vehicle is parked nearby, I will have a protein shake waiting for to take within 45 minutes of completing the event. I immediately do my bolus adjustment which it can be the normal amount based to the information at hand. I try to pay a lot of attention to the sugars during recovery since I have learned that it will significantly affect how quickly I can go back to a normal running routine.