After 90 minutes of strenuous activity, your glucose
stores are depleted, which brings the nervous system function to a near halt,
making continued exertion almost impossible. This is what marathon runners
refer to as “hitting the wall.” Therefore, it is important to fuel up every 45 to
60 minutes during a long ride or run, with around 30 to 60g of carbohydrate per
The form of carbohydrate does not seem to matter physiologically
– some athletes prefer to use a sports drink, whereas others prefer to eat solids
or gels and consume with water. You can mix and match different options and should
experiment to find what works best for you during training. Prolonged exercise
may affect appetite and varying salty & sweet foods during the day can
help. However, what makes a good snack during a ride or a run is about more than
just providing your muscles and glycogen stores with the correct nutrients, it
needs to also be portable, convenient and sustainable, and should be able to
handle high temperatures (should not melt).
If you are cycling, it is important to start eating as
soon as you feel comfortable on your bike. During your run, start eating and
drinking early in the session (within 30 to 45 minutes). A very good phrase to
go by is the following: “Eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re
SNACKS YOU CAN TRY
Energy or sports bars: A simple but effective
snack, and usually well balanced in their carbohydrate, fat and protein
content. Cutting the bar into smaller pieces makes the snacking process a lot
Baby potatoes or Salticrax biscuits: This snack is packed with
carbohydrates and potassium. Approximately three to four boiled baby potatoes
or eight Salticrax biscuits will provide you with your needed 30g of
carbohydrates per hour. By adding a little salt to the baby potatoes, you get a
lovely savoury treat that will also help to replace sodium lost through sweat.
Peanut butter and syrup sandwich: The bread and syrup provides you with the needed carbohydrates and the
peanut butter provides protein and healthy fats. Cut the sandwich up into four
small squares or triangles to make eating as easy as possible.
Sports drinks: Approximately 375 to
500ml of sports drink (6-8g of carbohydrates per 100ml) will supply you with 25
to 30g of carbohydrates. Sports drinks also contain electrolytes to help
replace those lost.
Energy gel sachets: These are easy to
carry and two sachets provide you with approximately 30g of carbohydrates
(depending on the brand).
Trail Mix: Dried fruits supply
you with a concentrated source of carbohydrates and salted nuts supply you with
potassium and healthy fats.
Jelly sweets: These as generally
the easiest to carry and consume during a long ride or run. They supply you
with an instant source of simple carbohydrates to help increase your blood
glucose levels. Approximately five to six sweets (jelly babies, jelly beans,
Super C’s, etc.) will provide you with roughly 30g of carbohydrates.
To get the most out of your training rides and runs,
and of course race day, the timing and type of food you eat is important. As a
general guide, you should aim to eat a main meal three to four hours before a
run and then a lighter snack one to two hours beforehand.