Following our review of Honey Stinger Gels, we reached out to a few folks closer to the Honey Stinger Hive to get their point of view and some insights about their energy gels. We were super excited to get a response from non other than two time the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier and recent record breaker of the Quad Rock 25 mile trail run in Fort Collins, Colorado – Ashley Brasovan. Ashley has been crushing records since her days in high school and is a specialist at races in the 50k range. You can check out a bit more about her running history and passion for the environment in this iRunFar profile or in Leo’s Learning video interview.
We conducted the interview via email and focused the conversation on fueling strategies but also ventured a little bit into other topics.
Here is our Q&A with Ashley.
I read that you recently broke the 25 mile Quad Rock record in Fort Collins Colorado – Congrats!! How did you fuel for this type of race? Anything specific pre-race, during and post-race? (Example: Can you give us a rundown of what you ate and when you ate them?)
Thank you! This was a REALLY hot day too so fueling & hydration was definitely the primary focus for me. Here is what the day looked like from a fueling perspective:
~90min pre-race: Toast with banana slices and peanut butter. I like to have something that I am used to and digests easily.
~60min pre race: 16oz of water with 1 nuun sports tablet (love the orange-mango flavor with a little caffeine)
During Race (~4 hrs): For fuel, I typically do 1 gel every 30-40 min. My favorites are the quick burn gels for the marathon distance which is typically Honey Stinger Acai Pomegranate & Honey Stinger Strawberry kiwi (includes caffeine).
I alternate between caffeinated and non-caffeinated. For hydration on hot days, I try to get in ~15-20oz of water per hour and will switch to sports drink or whatever is available on course if I start feeling any sort of cramping coming on (especially the last hour or so).
Post race: I try to get in real food and a lot of water ASAP. This day I had a veggie burger with watermelon and then 2-3 cans of sparkling water within 60min of finishing to speed up recovery!
As both an accomplished marathon runner and trail runner – is there a difference in how you plan and execute your in-race fueling strategy?
Definitely! Fueling looks completely different for different races. For cooler weather, I typically need less water and electrolytes than I would on a hotter day. I also look at elevation gain in the race and altitude.
For races with more vertical gain or higher up in altitude (above 9,000ft), I fuel more frequently than flatter or lower altitude races. Also, if I know a big climb is coming then I will try to time a gel about 10min before to have the glucose hit right as I am going into the big climb and have found that effective. Lots of different factors so I definitely review and study the course prior to deciding on my fuel strategy for the day and make sure to practice my nutrition during training.
How did you get started with Honey Stinger?
I first was able to connect with Honey Stinger at a few local events back in 2017. It was neat to see a local Colorado company based in Steamboat that had a focus on mountain athletes and had a staff of athletes.
I started using the products and really loved the quick burn energy created from sustainably-sourced honey and the variety of products – pre, during and post racing and training. I applied as an Ambassador for the 2018 season and have been with the company ever since!
What’s the relationship like with the brand? Do you get to try any of their prototypes? Do you have any input into their future products?
Honey Stinger has been a great and collaborative brand to work with. I have gotten to test and provide feedback for some of the prototypes prior to those going to market.
They do take into account real feedback from athletes prior to going to market with a product. I have been able to collaborate with the brand on some of the sustainability initiatives this year which has been exciting since I have 10+ years of experience in the sustainability industry. It is great to work with a brand that acknowledges and leverages your skill sets outside of just running.
In your athlete page on the Honey Stinger page they have listed your favorite products as GF Salted Caramel waffles & Coconut almond protein bars – are these still your favorites; What is special about these?
Yes these are still two of my favorites for pre and post workouts! The flavors are great and I love the nutrition profile for training and racing. The third one that I would add would be the Acai Pomegranate gel to fuel me during workouts & races.
Do you have any tips for other athletes looking to get some running support from big brands?
I would say 2 things.
1) Make sure you like the products of the brand that you want to work with and that those products actually work for you. Sometimes I hear that people just want a sponsorship but haven’t tried the products long term or at all. You want this to be a mutually beneficial relationship.
2) If you want to work with a brand, start small. Try applying to an ambassador program first to get a feel for what the brand and team is like and to ensure that you’re aligned on morals, values, and teaming. Networking during races and at athletic events online or in-person can help to start get you engrained with a brand as well.
Outside of racing, what is your approach to nutrition and diet?
I maintain a balanced approach to nutrition outside of racing. Most of my diet is plant-based with a focus on getting enough calories for my activity level. I integrate a lot of whole foods (non-packaged) and beans, yogurt, tofu and eggs to get adequate levels of protein, carbs and fats.
I saw in your Leo Learning interview that you are a self-admitted record holder for dealing with stress-fractures. Do you have any tips for athletes with regards to overcoming such adversity, and specifically do you think nutrition plays a role in that as well?
Nutrition, overall stress, and recovery play a huge role in injuries and stress fractures. I have had 6 femoral stress fractures over the last 12 years and had a severe eating disorder in high school that led to osteoporosis by age 18. Underfueling really put me in that position so my focus over the last few years has been getting in enough fuel and the right balance of fat, protein and carbs which has GREATLY reduced my injury rates. I have also overcome osteoporosis and now have healthy bone density by focusing more on nutrition.
Finally, it’s peak summer right now and runners all over the world are dealing with trying to manage running and training in the heat. How’s the weather in Colorado these days? And, do you have any tips for athletes training in a world that’s increasingly getting warmer?
Climate change is definitely creating warmer summers across the globe. We have had a few toasty 100+F degree days in Colorado this year and a few record-breaking days. The few pieces of advice I have are to:
- Train early if possible to beat the heat and avoid dehydration risk.
- Get in plenty of fluids and electrolytes over the summer when it’s hot out.
- If you start feeling light headed or dizzy, consult with a medical professional, stop activity and get inside to fuel up, cool down, and get extra hydration.
Big thanks to Ashley for sharing her great advice and we encourage you to follow her over on her Instagram page.