do energy drink really help with marathon running performance

Best Energy Drinks For Runners: How And When To Use Them

You cannot achieve success without breaking some sweat. And that couldn’t be truer for athletes and sports enthusiasts who break a sweat every day. Of course, every sport demands hard work. That’s what sport means.

They work hard every single day to polish their skills and improve on them. For a runner, it becomes a bit more challenging than the others.

How is that?

If you’re a runner, you know how hard it can be to find the perfect weather to run in? You usually have to run either early morning or in the evening. And if you can’t do it either of those times, then you just have to run in the scorching sun and plow through those miles. There are no ifs and buts about it. You have to get your miles in for that week.

And if there weren’t enough things that would put a wedge in what they are trying to achieve, there’s one massively important thing that can mess everything up. Not just for runners, but for almost every athlete out there – their energy.

If you run out of energy mid-run, you HAVE to take a break to eat some snacks, or just to rehydrate. Doing that will result in you taking more time to complete the run which every runner absolutely hates. That is why energy drinks are so popular amongst runners. You can re-energize yourself while also making sure that you don’t waste time having to wait and eat something.

You can stay at the same pace, drink your energy drink and keep going.

But everyone knows that not all energy drinks are made equal. Some are better than others, while some can absolutely wreck your stomach and have you quit your run.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the best energy drinks for runners and when you should consume them.


Who Should Be Taking Energy Drinks?

Most of the people who are into physical activities like workouts or casual jogging won’t necessarily require an energy drink. But anything demanding more than an hour of physical strain should undoubtedly be coupled with an energy drink.

If you’re someone who goes to the gym 3-4 times a week or is into casual jogging, then I don’t think you necessarily need an energy drink. As long as your diet is good enough, you should have more than enough energy to go through those workouts.

But if you are someone who is into running marathons, a half marathon, or even Ultra marathons then an energy drink is something that you will have to keep handy. Because those activities do require you to sustain high levels of energy for a long period and it is possible that you might run out of energy mid-run and you will need to re-up your glycogen stores with an energy drink. 

The goal is to have a pre-workout meal that will give you enough energy to last through an entire training session. But in most cases that won’t be enough. Especially when it comes to running a marathon or even a half marathon.


What Happens To Our Body When We Run? 

Running causes our body to lose the stored glycogen, just like every other type of workout that we do. Once our muscles start to break down, that’s when we require more carbohydrates to keep fueling them so we can keep going. But once we start to redline our glycogen stores, that is when you will start to feel very light and very tired while running. And that is exactly when you will need to drink an energy drink and refill your glycogen stores so you can keep going.

Another thing you need to make sure of is that you have enough electrolytes in your body when you are running for longer distances. Because once these electrolytes start running out in the form of sweat, your body will start to cramp. And trust me, leg cramps while you are running is no joke.

That is when you will start to feel dizzy and will have to stop and have an electrolyte drink. In most cases though, your energy drink should already have enough electrolytes for you to not consume a separate drink just for that.

After a certain period, your body will start using your fat stores as its primary source of energy. But the process of fat oxidation and getting to the point where your body starts using your fat as its primary source of energy is very slow. That’s why to reach that point your body requires an external supply of carbohydrates for energy.


Are Energy Drinks Important?

During running, one’s body loses enormous amounts of electrolytes through perspiration. The stored glycogen also gets used up by the muscles and it requires refilling. This leads to muscle cramps which makes it utterly difficult to continue. 

When you are running for longer distances your body will naturally start to lose a lot of electrolytes through sweating.   Sweating is a natural process to keep our bodies cool.  but after a certain point, the electrolytes in our body will be so low that our muscles will start to cramp. and that is when you will need to either stop and take some rest or you will need to drink an electrolyte drink or energy drink if you want to keep going.

So it really depends on you if you think that energy drinks are important for you or not.

Because if you are willing to take multiple rests during your runs then you might not need to consume an energy drink. But if you are like most runners then you will want to finish your run as quickly as possible. In that case, an energy drink will help you keep your energy levels and glycogen stores up through your entire run so you don’t have to stop mid-run.


What Are Energy Drinks Composed of?

An ideal drink contains carbohydrates, mostly in the combination of sucrose and fructose. This combination of carbohydrates is seen to work the best. It also contains electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc.

Some energy drinks/gels like GU Roctane also come with caffeine. A good thing about having caffeine in your energy drink is that you will be able to sustain peak levels of energy for a longer time compared to other energy drinks that do not contain caffeine in it.

But then again, it all depends on how long you need to keep running to hit your target miles for the week or finish that run.


Benefits Of Energy Drinks

Having an energy drink can be a lifesaver when you’re gasping for air before passing out (this can also happen if you don’t prepare for the run and don’t have the lung capacity to be able to run continuously for longer distances). Like I mentioned above, once you start to run low on electrolytes that is when all sorts of problems start to happen in your body.

There are countless benefits of energy drinks, such as:

  • Instant Boost

It gives you an instant boost when you start feeling low energy during a race or a run. Most energy drinks contain some form of sugar that can quickly convert into carbohydrates.

  • Prevents Cramping

Once our body starts sweating a lot and starts to lose a lot of electrolytes, that is when all sorts of problems start to happen.

Having an energy drink will make sure that not only do you have enough energy to output peak performance through the remainder of the race, you also have enough electrolytes that will prevent any muscle cramps as well.


When Should You Drink An Energy Drink?

It all depends on your level of fitness and how long you can go without feeling like you are tired and you cannot keep going anymore. Once you start to feel like you are running low on electrolytes or if you do not have enough energy to perform at your highest level that is when you should consume an energy drink.


How To Consume An Energy Drink?

Generally, it is suggested to take 20-40 ounces of an energy drink in one go. Drinking more than 40 ounces will only make your stomach heavier and will affect your pace which we absolutely do not want.

To be judicious of the amount you are drinking, you can use bottles with specific markings on them. This will save you time and help you focus more on your run.


How To Choose The Right Energy Drink? 

There are several brands that manufacture custom energy drinks for different types of athletes. But in most cases, any energy drink will do just fine as long as you follow our simple guidelines. These guidelines will help you choose the right energy drink to avoid having you feel like you are running a half-marathon after eating an entire bowl of mac n cheese.

Energy drink choosing guidelines:

  • Checking The Number Of Carbohydrates

An ideal energy drink should contain 4 to 8% of carbohydrates. But do take into account the weather where you live. Because that will determine if you should go for a drink with a higher carbohydrate content or a lower one.

For example, if you live in a city that is hot and humid, then a drink that has 5% carbs will work well for you.

But if you live in a city that gets fairly cold, then a drink with 15% carbs will be more suited for you.


  • Must Contain The Right Kind Of Electrolytes

This is very important. Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium are the electrolytes you must look for.

If the energy drink does not have these electrolytes, you should choose some other drink.


  • Essential Vitamins

Vitamin C, D3, E, and B12 are the most important ones.


  • Does It Affect Your Stomach? 

We recommend trying out a couple of different energy drinks when you are preparing for the half-marathon. Because it is possible that your body might not respond well to some energy drinks.

Some people get an upset stomach with some energy drinks. So you want to make sure that you find that out while you are training and not on the race day.


  • The Taste

Let’s be honest here, we all love to eat and drink things that taste good. And what’s the point of going through all the hard work of training for weeks if you cannot drink an energy drink that tastes good.

So, for us, this is an important part of the decision-making process. The drink HAS to taste good or we don’t use it and don’t recommend it either. And we believe you should do the same.


Energy Drink Recommendations

Here are some energy drinks that we’ve tried and think you will love as well. Feel free to give them a try and see if you like them.

Ucan comes in powder form, so you will have to prepare this drink beforehand. It’s nothing complicated. Just mix it with some cold water or however, you like your energy drinks and it’s ready for consumption. 

It comes with a Super Starch (fancy marketing term for sugar that converts into carbs in a matter of seconds) that boosts your energy level and prevents any chances of extreme energy loss. 


This is an exclusively organic energy drink. This one also comes in powder form so you will have to mix it with some water to consume it. Or you can try dry scooping it like those kids on TikTok, but we DO NOT recommend that you do that. 

If you have a highly sensitive stomach that gets upset very quickly, then you should give Tailwind a shot. This is one of the best energy drinks out there that works for everyone. 

Not just that, it is gluten-free and vegan. All of its flavors are also natural. 


GU Roctane is another energy drink/powder that’s available on the market. They are well-known for being one of the best energy gels out there. So you can trust them to know what they are doing.


Who Should Avoid Energy Drinks? 

Yes, energy drinks will make you feel incredible. But you should only consume them when you are doing some sort of exercise or activity that requires you to expend energy for a long period of time. If you have a sedentary lifestyle and you keep chugging energy drinks all day, that will do you no good.

At the end of the day, you are just drinking sugary drinks to get a quick burst of energy and spike your insulin levels. And if you’re not using up all that energy as efficiently as possible, it will just convert into fat. And that is no good.

But here’s 2 categories of people that should avoid energy drinks:


Pregnant And Nursing Women

Pregnant and nursing women must avoid energy drinks completely. During regular practice and runs, these might be quite beneficial, but they have little to no positive effects during pregnancy. 

On the contrary, during pregnancy, the women’s body goes through countless phases, and energy drinks might cause complications during childbirth if consumed regularly. 


Children and Teenagers

Children and teenagers might not even need energy drinks in the first place. Not only that, but you should also think about their body size. Children have smaller bodies and if they consume energy drinks, they will be consuming WAY more sugar compared to their body size. Not good at all.


To Sum Up 

Energy drinks are one of the best ways to perform at your peak for longer durations. They boost you up, keep you hydrated and prevent muscle cramps.

It compensates for the loss of electrolytes during a long-distance run so you don’t pass out in the middle of the track.

But here’s a caveat – you should only consume an energy drink when you think you will it to perform your best. There’s no point drinking it if you are at your desk and just want to get that instant rush of sugar and spiked insulin going through your body.