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Endurance Liquid Fueling Basics

With all of the endurance fuel drinks on the market, it’s hard to know which product is best. To satisfy my own curiosity (and because I do love a good spreadsheet) I went through the websites of various major energy/endurance products to get the nutritional content, and then adjusted everything per 100 calories in order to get a straight-across comparison.

A few items to note when comparing:

  1. What is the carbohydrate energy source, fast-burning ingredients that can cause blood glucose levels to spike and crash like glucose and sucrose, or low-glycemic ingredients like maltodextrin and cornstarch that provide a steadier source of energy?

  2. You can always take additional electrolytes, but watch out for too much sodium per the amount of calories. On a long but not hot day, too much sodium (hypernatremia) can be just as bad as not enough (hyponatremia). Make sure you are monitoring and have control of your sodium intake, as either condition can be race altering and even life threatening.

  3. How long will you be out on the roads or trails, pushing your body? After a certain period of time, your body will eventually begin to break down its own muscles if not given proper nutrition. For activities generally over two hours, be sure to add in protein to save your muscles and even some fat to encourage metabolism of your own fat stores.

2015 Liquid fuel product comparison

The chart doesn't include recovery or muscle-building products, etc.--this isn't meant to be all inclusive with every company's every product, but rather what people tend to use in liquid form in longer endurance events or adventure outings where stamina is key.

Whether you’ve been running ultramarathons for years or are looking for a way to begin, invest your time into better understanding the science of nutrition and how it can best benefit you. The websites for most of the above products have lots of information, for starters. Make a plan, try it out in your long runs, tweak your plan if you must, and when you find what works best for you, put it to the test on race day.

**Note: at publication date, the guest author was affiliated with Hammer. All nutritional information was taken from the individual company websites.** 


  1. Good comparison. It's hard to find out what works best. I've been using Tailwind on runs all the way up to the low 30s with pretty good succes. I still have to throw some solid food in there to supplement because my stomach growls, but my energy levels are pretty even. My complaint with Tailwind is that I come back covered in salt. Obviously I'm taking in too much sodium with their product. I figured I'd give Hammer's Perpetuem a try, and did so this weekend. I used a 2 hour bottle and a gel on 18 miles. No salty face this time, and while I never felt hungry, I don't feel like my energy was as even as with Tailwind. There has to be a magic combination out there somewhere. I think next I'll try a more diluted Tailwind mix and supplement the calorie differences with a gel or more solid food. I'd be curious to hear about some of your own trials and errors with dialing in your nutrition.

  2. Thanks, Denzil. It's always interesting to hear how others fare with their nutrition since we're all different people. It sounds like your body responds well to some simple sugars in there. Maybe you could try mixing the Perpeteum in a Gatorade G2 (lower sugar) base or taking a sucrose/fructose based gel with the Perpeteum? When I decided to do my first ultra a few years ago, I used the information in the Hammer Knowledge Base on their website to make a plan, and have only used Perpeteum (along with some Hammer Sustained Energy once in a while) as my liquid source, although on runs with more vert, I get hungry pretty quickly and need some solids, too. I try to avoid straight sugars because I'm a bit hypoglycemic. My preference is to take a Perpeteum concentrate in a 150ml soft flask and then drink enough water to go with it, supplemented by the occasional gel or Hammer bar. I manage my electrolytes separately, through Endurolytes or Fizz in my water. Good luck finding your magic combination!

  3. Thanks for the reply and suggestions. There are a few other confounding variables that may be playing a role in the perceived effectiveness of each fueling method as well. My tailwind day was in the 20s and a relatively flat run. My perpetuem day was a fluke day in the 60s with almost 2000 feet of climbing. I'd say a combination of the elevation and not being acclimated to warmer temps (it's february lol) yet played a large role in my fatigue. I definitely haven't given up on the perpetuem. I found it to be very mild in flavor and satiating.

  4. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me dinner because I found it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx

  5. Thanks for this post. I am very interested in this lately. I typically run up to 18 miles without any nutrition or hydration. It can take me a while after such a run to feel good again, but during the run I tend to feel fine. If I am pushing the pace, I might take one gel at about mile 12 and maybe a couple sips of water. I need to start experimenting with some combinations to see if they help or hinder my performance.

  6. James, way back before I started running these longer distances, I also did my long runs in a semi-starved state thinking it would make me stronger. But no, I just wore my body down until I'd get really sick, almost every training cycle. I just can't do it anymore. Still, if you're training for something specific and that's the kind of access you'll have to nutrition during the race/run, then you kinda hafta make your body adapt to that in training, right? (The key would then be in how you recover. I've found that I recover best from any taxing workout when I take in food in a 3:1 carb:protein ratio within 30-60 minutes after the workout, which I'll do either with Recoverite if it's convenient or with real foods or a protein-fruit smoothie. But I digress.) If you don't have to restrict yourself like that, then I'd be very interested to see the effects of your experiments in incorporating potent and timely nutrition.

  7. Fuelling is also available individual and can change. For runs something different with more fructose/glucose seems to work well with a little added protein to slow or prevent insulin response and sugar spikes. And as we proved last week riding 96 miles at the end of a 400 mile week on just water, coconut water 1 Bonk Breaker fig bar and some chia seeds, you don't need a lot. Agree with the electrolytes statements.


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