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Nutrition During Exercise

with Joni Gerken

Pre-exercise nutrition is an important factor in performance, but in some cases it isn’t enough to get you through your whole activity or workout. How much you need to eat or drink during exercise depends on how hard you are exerting yourself and for how long.

In general, if your activity is for less than an hour, you do not need to worry about food. Even with a short exercise, you want to make sure you stay hydrated. Since you don’t need the extra carbohydrates with a shorter workout, water is the best choice of fluid. Aim for 5 to 10oz of fluid for every 20 minutes of exercise for all durations of exercise. If you are sweating heavily due to workout intensity or a hot environment, focus on 10oz of fluid each 20 minutes.

If your workout is longer than two hours or you are maintaining a very high intensity, you are going to want to increase your carbohydrate intake to 60g per hour. You also want to start your intake within the first hour of exercise, so you don’t deplete your bodies carbohydrate stores early on. Again, it is best to get some carbohydrates every 15-20 minutes.

It is an individual preference on what foods are best during exercise. Though, there are some factors you want to focus on when you make your choice.Best foods during exercise are high in carbohydrates, may have a little protein or amino acids, and are very low in fat and fiber. A small amount of protein or amino acids helps to slow down the rate your body digests the carbohydrates. This allows for sustained energy versus a spike followed by a crash. Too much protein, as well as fat and fiber will slow down digestion too much, causing gastrointestinal upset.For the 30g goal during a 1-2 hour workout, a sports drink can give you enough carbohydrates. If your workout is longer or very high intensity you should add additional carbohydrates. There are many sports gels, bars, or gummies that specifically fit this purpose. Many athletes are now trialing more natural foods too. There are some athletes that actually swear by mashed potatoes for their carbohydrate boost during endurance activities. Ultimately, it takes a bit of individual trial and error to see what foods work best for your body to give you sustained energy without upsetting your stomach.

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