Photo by Brian Erickson (Unsplash)

Appropriate fluid and nutritional intakes are essential to maintain performance in sport competitions. Among them, runners, especially in long-distance events, often carry their own supplies of food, drinks and personal items with them, using different systems that may weight even several kilograms.

Among the most popular carriage systems for running are handheld bottles, waist belts and backpacks. A recent article has studied the economy and physiological demands of these carriage systems to determine which one is the optimal.


The study

 Twelve recreational healthy male runners of similar physical characteristics and training patterns were recruited (age 22.8 ± 2.2 years; body mass index 24.5 ± 1.8; training days per week 3.2 ± 1.3). They were used to run on a motorized treadmill, but not with any of the carriage systems.

Wearing the same clothes and footwear (shoe mass could influence the metabolic cost of running) they run for 1 hour in different days, separated at least 24 hours, with each carriage system loaded with 1.0 kilograms.

Running economy (expressed as oxygen consumption), cardiovascular effort, lactate levels and perceived exertion were then assessed at submaximal running speeds.


The Running Carrying Systems (see image)

  • HANDHELD BOTTLE: The handheld bottle used had a net weight of 114 g and contained a pouch for storage and a hand strap to hold the bottle itself, with a capacity of 500 mL. The remaining weight were additional items (315 g). Runners could hold the bottle in any hand and change it for personal comfort, although they were not allowed to drink to keep the testing weight at 1.0 kg.
  • WAIST BELT: The waist belt used, with two water bottles, weighted 121 g. It had a strap around the waist to adjust it for comfort. The water bottles were filled with liquid and the pockets contained additional weight to reach 1.0 kg.
  • BACKPACK: The backpack used had a 3-L water bladder and a net weight of 180 g. It contained several straps for fitting comfortably around the trunk and reduce swaying. The total weight of the backpack was increased to 1.0 kg.


The conclusions

  • Running economy deteriorated over time across all systems.
  • Carrying a handheld bottle, waist belt, or backpack during a 60-min run at submaximal running speed, showed no significant differences in any of the physiological parameters evaluated.
  • In the absence of significant differences in running economy using these carriage systems is recommended to keep loads to a minimum and choose one based on personal preferences.



The Optimal Weight Carriage System for Runners: Comparison Between Handheld Water Bottles, Waist Belts, and Backpacks. Scheer V, Vieluf S, Bitter N, Christ L and Heitkamp H-C (2020) Front. Physiol. 11:571221. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.571221

Image from V. Scheer et al. 2020

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