When To Eat And How Much To Eat For Endurance Events
If you have a sportive planned this year or thinking of doing some bikepacking, are you an avid runner or do endurance events. it's important to look at your food and nutritional plan, how much you should eat to keep you going and what options there are for you.
This short and concise video explains what sort of foods you should be looking for depending on the length of exercise.
They clearly state that "carbohydrates give a continual fuel source to your working muscles". Which means that for those looking at longer and continuous use of their muscles should be looking at carbs as a foundation for their nutritional plan.
Carbs aren't for everybody though, so working in your own diet requirements to benefit your nutritional style and keeping your stomach happy is one of the best approaches.
How To Use This Guide
This guide has been built using all the foods in our food discovery tool which has each individual food items nutritional info added to it. With this data we can ask questions like: "Which snack has the most carbs per gram?" and get definitive answers.
Everything you see below is taken from live databases of food information and continually added to and updated with new foods. This means that even though the guides copy may stay the same, you will always be seeing the most up to date answers because we pull this information live from our dataset. You can learn much more and understand how we get our answers just by using the food discovery tool.
Minutes of Energy
Minutes of energy is a new number we have added to many quick release energy foods, such as energy gels, throughout our food database. You can see it in action on our food discovery tool in the far right column and it gives a rough guide as to how many minutes of hard effort that food item can cover.
How Many Carbs Do I Need
Here are a few more points from the video we have linked above.
- Typically an athlete that is exercising for more than 90 minutes needs carbs after the first hour
- An endurance athlete that is training or working for up to 2 hours will need approx 30 - 60 grams of carbs after the first hour
- If you're doing 2.5 - 3 hours of exercise or more, you are looking at 60-90 grabs of carbs per hour.
Two to three sports snacks will cover you for anything up to 2 hours exercise. Anything more than 2 hours and you are looking at snacks that add up to 60-90grams of carbs to be consumed per hour.
These points are more inclined to help benefit an endurance athlete than a bikepacker or tourer, but even with touring, you will need to continually fuel your activity on the bike.
To simplify this, aim for approximately 1.2g of carbs per minute of exercise after the first hour. If your favourite energy gel has 20g of carbs in it, then expect that to cover you for roughly 17 minutes of exercise.
Based off of studies and sports nutritionist advice, we use this formula for our minutes of energy calculation we have added to all the fast release energy foods in our discovery tool database.
How Many Calories Do I Need
Calories do not convert precisely to energy that is used as it's consumed like carbs do, so aren't as good a rule of thumb to work out how much food you need to consume to cover a certain time of exercise.
You could have a few hundred calories in a small snack but it may have very little to no carbs and this means a lack of usable energy.
If you want to work with numbers though, aim for 200-240 calories per hour.
To put this in perspective, you could try and fuel an ultra marathon on meat bars which have very little to no carbs and you would be consuming enough calories, but because you aren't trained or prepared to turn that in to usable energy right then and there, you would fall off the cliff much quicker compared to a carb based food with the same amount of calories.
How Much Should You Drink
You should drink water when you are thirsty but as a rule of thumb you should be looking at drinking between 500ml and 1 litre per hour.
Sodium, magnesium and potassium are the most important things to replace when drinking, so make sure you're not consuming just water for your drink. Take a look at the food discovery tool and electrolyte powders or hydration mixes to make sure you're replacing lost salts.
The amount of water you require is also based on how much you have eaten or taken in as energy, not based just on how far you've run, or how hot it is.
From Tailwainds website:
"Drink Extra Water! Did we mention to drink extra water?! Each 100 calories of Endurance Fuel requires 10-12oz of water for your body to process, so it is really important to drink extra water. If you don’t drink enough water your body will suck water from your bloodstream and carry it to the GI system, accelerating dehydration and potentially causing stomach issues."
Summarised, every 100 calories or every energy gel that you consume you should be drinking 250-300ml of water. Even if a gel or food item doesn't need water, it's always a good habit to drink with extra water anyway going by this rule of thumb.
Drink Your Carbs
Even better, look in to energy drink suggestions as you can get your carb requirements through your drink as well. As you'll most likely already be carrying a drink with you, it makes sense to combine the two.
Below you can find many energy drink suggestions for endurance athletes and the same rule of thumb applies for eating carbs.
For every 500ml - 1L you should be adding between 15 - 90 grams of carbs for every hour of exercise.
Which is, 2 servings of carbs an hour or at least 60 grams of carbs per hour, every hour for longer endurance activities, like ultra marathons.
If you're doing just 1-2 hours of exercise, a single bottle of water with 15-30 grams of carb based energy drink powder could work. If you're exercising for longer then every 500ml of water should have at least 30 - 60 grams of carbs in them.
How Much Should I Eat And Drink Per Hour Of Exercise
This is a rough guide, but to summarise, because exercising for one hour differs depending on what you are doing, your body size and a few other points. You are best to train and get used to not just exercise, but your nutritional plan during exercise. This way you know what works, what doesn't and you can improve upon it.
To summarise all of the above and the food and drink suggestions below, you should be looking at the following.
Consuming at least 500ml - 1L of water (with electrolytes) per hour.
Eating or drinking at least 30 - 60 grams of carbs per hour, but if you are exercising for multiple hours it should be more and at about 60 - 90 grams of carbs per hour for continuous exercise that lasts many hours.
In other words, you should aim to have 2 servings of carbs per hour, this can be a mix of anything, but preferably what you have already tested and had before when exercising.
What To Eat Before Your Exercise
Make sure to eat the things you are used to eating and things that give you a nutritional boost as the other things throughout the exercise could be focused on just fueling you.
Pre-fueling on a high carb meal can help with your glycogen stores and it means that you can exercise up to 90 minutes without needing to fuel.
This means you can have a normal days meal or breakfast before your exercise or even something from the suggestions below.
What To Eat After Your Exercise
Whatever you like, whats your favourite meal? You've deserved it. After we've finished ultra marathons, big days out on the bike and multi-day hikes we've binged on take aways, restaurant meals, high carb, high fat foods, processed foods and everything in-between.
Hundreds Of High Carb Food Suggestions
Below you can find definitive suggestions for foods which will help get you through long exercise periods.
Each category is based on a specific amount of carbs or a food category, such as diet or ingredients.
The longer the activity, higher the intensity, the more carbs. To repeat above, 15 grams per hour minimum for shorter activities and a max of 60-90 grams of carbs per hour for longer activities, regardless of body size.
This is why below we have categorised most foods in the 15 - 30 gram of carbs bracket. Each snack food in this bracket represents up to 30 minutes of energy expelled.
How Many Snacks Per Hour
To use this tool, simply work out how many carbs you need for your upcoming activitiy by how long you'll be exercising for. If it's 3 hours, then you are looking at a minimum of 180 grams of carbs to sustain you and water to drink on top of that.
If you are exercising for 90 - 120 minutes then you will need two to four high carb energy foods which have between 15 - 30grams of carbs in them.
It's up to you how to fuel this exercise and this is why we have added the different carb sized foods and categories of sports foods, from energy gels, through to solids, including fruits and energy powdered drinks.
|Hours of Exercise||Grams of Carbs (Per Hour)||Total Grams of Carbs||Number of Snacks|
The number off snacks total is dependent on how many carbs each drink or food item has in them. The less the carbs, the more you'll have to carry and consume to hit your quota for your activity length.
All you have to do now is search through all the suggestions below, and organise how many you need for your next adventure.
Endurance Food Options Between 15 - 30g Of Carbs
Here you can find a definitive list of all food and snack options for outdoors enthusiasts and sports athletes which contain between 15 and 30 grams of carbs.
Just scroll through the table using the mini pager at the bottom right to see more suggestions.
To keep things simple, choose two snacks or drinks for every hour of exercise and activities. If you're doing one to two hours, you'll be looking at 4 high carb snacks max. This could be entirely energy powdered drinks, as carrying water and liquid would be required, this could work well.
If you are looking at doing more than a couple of hours of exercise and activities, you will be looking at 60 - 90 grams of carbs per hour of exercise.
In this case, simply choose a number of food options which cover the needs of that amount of exercise. From this section, for anything above 2 hours or more you will be looking at choosing at least 2 and up to 5 snacks.
At the time of writing there are over 330 food options which can keep you continually fuelled for your exercise activities.
Energy Gels With 15 - 30 Grams of Carbs
Looking for an energy gel which you should consume roughly every 30 minutes and which has at least 15 to 30grams of carbs?
Here is a definitive list of energy gels from many different brands. Unlike stores, we don't stock a handful of energy gels, we're continually on the lookout for new foods and we add them to the site so that you can find the perfect gel for you.
At the time of writing there are over 72 energy gels, just scroll through the table using the mini pager at the bottom right to see more suggestions.
They are easily the most used fuelling type of food for sports, one of the quickest to consume and easily digestible. They come in many different flavours and are very easy to carry.
Even when running you can put a few in even the smallest pocket and they can keep you fuelled for the longest of runs.
Energy Bars With 15 - 30g Carbs
A growing list of energy bars which contain between 15 to 30grams of carbs.
If you prefer solid food to keep you fuelled then look no further than this list of energy bars which are high in carbs.
These include nut bars, seed bars, raw fruit bars, flapjacks and much more.
Just like an energy gel, you can carry them on the go and consume with water to help keep you fuelled on long days out.
Energy Powdered Drinks With 15 to 30g Carbs
You can sustain yourself and fuel entire activities purely through energy powder drinks that you add to your water. For anything more than an hour you'll be looking at hydrating and you can combine the two.
This can save on weight and if your stomach doesn't get any issues with this approach then there are loads of options for you.
All you need to do is choose which energy powdered drink you want to try, which flavour and add the serving amount to your bottle of water and it will keep you going and even make your water taste great.
One thing you can do is purchase a large tub of energy powder and save on plastic use. One of the problems with energy gels and bars is the amount of plastic you can get through. Where as with the energy drinks you can buy in bulk and purchase hundreds of servings at a time and use over the span of weeks.
How Much Carbs In Fruit
If you prefer fruit, we list how many carbs are in a single serving of many different fruits here.
One thing that is for sure is that you can always find fruit at an aid station when participating in an ultra or cycle sportive.
They are far more popular and can be bought in supermarkets, health food stores and corner shops. You will also know whether your stomach can handle fruits because you'll have gotten used to them over the years.
|1||banana||vegan, vegetarian||banana||100 grams||23.00g|
|2||Thrive Life Freeze Dried Banana Slices||Buy @ Thrive Life||gluten free, vegan, vegetarian||banana||20 grams||19.00g|
|3||Pitted Dates||Buy @ Amazon||vegan, vegetarian||dates||28 grams||21.70g|
|4||Dole Whole Pitted Dates Packet||Buy @ Amazon||vegan, vegetarian||dates||40 grams||30.00g|
|5||Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Medjool Dates Packet||Buy @ Amazon||gluten free, vegan, vegetarian||date||15 grams||15.00g|
|6||Boiled Potato||vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, soy free, dairy free, nut free, wheat free||potato||100 grams||19.52g|
Sports Foods With The Most Carbs
Looking for sports foods with the highest amount of carbs possible? We have listed every snack by those with the highest carb density.
Here you can find fruits, such as dates, energy powders and the ever famous kendal mint cake.
Most of those in this table, which is sorted by those with the most has at least a 90% carb density in each serving. This means that of all the weight you will be carrying to fuel you will go mostly in to keeping you going and is ready to use as you consume it, in the form of carbs.
All of these options would be great for keeping you going during an activity.
Endurance Sports Foods For Vegans
If you're a vegan and have plans for long endurance type events, there are plenty of athletes making the vegan diet work for them.
Here you can find only vegan sports food options to keep you fuelled whilst exercising.
There are many plant based options out there, covering all flavours and food types.
Sports Food Options With 30 to 60g Of Carbs Per Serving
Here is a complete list of food options which have between 30 and 60grams of carbs. This includes energy gels, bars, powdered drinks and more sports supplements and foods.
Just like above, with the 15 - 30gram options, this one is here if you want to carry less food items or need something more substantial for your activities and nutrition plan.
Energy Bars With Over An Hours Worth Of Carbs
If you're looking for a bigger energy bar or something that can last you at least an hour or two and has 60-90 grams of carbs here you go.
These energy bars all have between 60 and 90 grams of carbs. This is ideal to have one for every hour of activities if you're working out for over 2 hours.
High Carb No Added Sugar Snacks
There are a lot of sports snacks available, thousands of choices to keep you going whilst out on your adventures.
But what about the sugars added in their ingredients. Some sweeteners may give you stomach problems so you may want to avoid them.
Here you can see all the on the go food suggestions which have no added sugars and all are naturally present sugars.