Heinz encourages runners to eat packets of ketchup to fuel up

It’s common for runners to eat sugary foods when they’re out for long runs to replenish their spent carbohydrates. But is ketchup the way to go?

This week, Heinz launched a campaign encouraging runners to take packets of ketchup with them on their runs. The ketchup maker also created keystone-shaped run routes runners can follow in several major cities. 

Heinz says the routes include restaurants where runners can stop for a packet of ketchup along the run. Cities with routes include New York, San Francisco and Toronto. Heinz said it will soon have routes in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. 

While it might sound silly, ketchup contains two components commonly needed by endurance athletes: simple carbohydrates and salt. According to Cleveland Clinic dietitian Katherine Patton, endurance athletes generally need 30-60 grams of carbohydrates for each hour of exercise. 

A packet of Heinz ketchup has 3 grams of carbohydrates, meaning it would take 10-20 servings of Heinz to fuel an hour of running. 

“Runners, swimmers, cyclists or anyone who exercises for more than 60 minutes needs to adequately fuel their body for the best workout,” Patton said. “This is important because while you exercise, your body draws on carbohydrates stored in your muscles. However, the available amount is limited. Research shows consuming carbohydrates during exercise that lasts longer than an hour improves metabolic response and athletic performance and prevents glycogen depletion.”

Patton recommends endurance athletes use energy gels when exercising for long durations. Most gel packs contain 23-27 grams of carbohydrates per serving, she said.