Have you experienced the “bonk” or the “wall” on a long run? Most endurance athletes know the feeling all too well. Your fuel tank runs dry,  your glycogen stores are depleted, and your run turns into something resembling a forced march to the finish line. For me, it happened at the 2013 New York City Marathon. Things were fine until I hit the wall at mile 20.

I had an almost non-existent fueling strategy. I knew better, but I didn’t want to slow down or worry about eating something on the run. Instead, I decided I would be fine just grabbing a Gatorade Endurance drink at every other aid station along the course. Well, the strategy didn’t work, and I blew my chances at qualifying for Boston by ten minutes.

This year, I’ll be running the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon, and I’m determined to run smarter. One of my goals is to fuel properly to avoid bonking. I will be using energy gels during my long training runs to test what works best for me, and then apply what I have learned on race day. Consistency is important. You don’t want to introduce new methods of fueling on race day. Trust me on this.

In my search for performance nutrition, I reached out to the folks at Clif Bar & Company to evaluate their Clif Shots product line. They generously agreed to send some samples my way for testing. I use Clif Shot Gels, and Clif Shot Bloks during my long runs. After my run, I’ll mix up a Clif Shot Protein Recovery drink. I pick and choose what products to use based on the duration and intensity of my workout.

A good rule of thumb concerning energy gels is the 1-hour rule. If you aren’t running for more than an hour, you really don’t need to worry about energy gels and race nutrition. Hydration is important and you should drink water every 20 minutes or so, but the fueling isn’t much of a concern until you hit the 1-hour mark. For me, that means I need to consider my fueling strategy before heading out on my Sunday long runs which can last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.

Clif Shot Energy Gels

Clif Shot Energy Gels supply a dose of carbs and sugar to keep your tank full during exercise. Some shots include caffeine which has been proven to enhance athletic performance when taken in safe dosage amounts. The gel comes in many flavors and is a certified organic product.

I didn’t have any stomach upset as a result of taking the gels before or during my runs. The “litter leash” package design allows you to rip the tab off of the gel without littering. Remember to drink water with your gels. Water is the transport vehicle that allows for absorption in the small intestine.

Clif Shot Bloks

Clif Shot Bloks are 1″x.5″ energy chews. There are six Shot Bloks in each package. Three blocks contain the same amount of carbs and sugars as one energy gel. I tried the margarita flavor, which I found to be palatable and easy to digest. I actually like the texture of the Shot Bloks better than the texture of the Energy Gels, but that’s just me.

A serving of Clif Shot Bloks has almost twice the sodium as a Clif Shot Energy Gel. This is important if you are sweating out large amounts of salt and want to keep your electrolytes stocked up and reduce your chances of muscle cramping. As with the gels, water is necessary to deliver the goods to your body.

Clif Shot Protein Recovery Drink

After a long run, your body will be craving protein to help jump-start muscle recovery. Clif Shot Protein Recovery drink mix is a simple solution that provides protein, carbohydrates and sodium. Runners need protein to stay healthy, grow stronger, and recover faster. Protein improves your body’s response to training, and helps prevent injury.

Sodium is a key electrolyte. Electrolytes are used to maintain voltages across cell membranes. Your heart, nerves, and muscles rely of electrolytes to communicate. If you lose your electrolytes, your body’s communication network crashes. When this happens, you lose muscle power, coordination, and function.

Thoughts?