Some athletes don’t feel the need to fuel during sessions of an hour or less. For most exercisers, our workouts all fall within this range. But for those training more than an hour at a time, or those training at extreme intensities, good fueling ensures that performance stays high.

Carbohydrate is the fuel of choice during activity, as fat and protein are too complex to digest quickly. Sports nutritionists recommend ingesting between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. This works out to 120 to 240 calories. Lean more toward the low end during steady-state efforts, and aim closer to 60 grams if you’re doing hills, intervals, or metabolic training. Our athletes who are attempting to lose weight fear eating these calories. Be aware that the few calories you take in during exercise will pay off in an improved training session. If you can get your energy levels up, you’ll often be able to exercise 20 to 40 percent more effectively.

Gels, bars, and sports drinks are designed for use during exercise. In fact, you should probably avoid eating these except during sessions. Which one to drink/eat? The one that tastes best to you. There are dozens of companies that make snacks for use during exercise. Don’t get sucked in by the advertising, pick based on your own experience. If it doesn’t feel right, drop it.

Aside from the relatively expensive snacks specifically marketed as sports aids, you could choose Fig Newtons, bananas, crackers, pretzels, snack bars, or some fruit juices. Be aware that many athletes have problems digesting fruit during activity; it’s something you’ll want to experiment with.

If feelings of sluggishness (not muscular failure) and low-energy plague you during workouts, try adding a little fuel during exercise. Start small– maybe sip on a sports drink every 10 minutes or so, and see if it makes a difference. Remember that higher-quality sessions lead to better results. Training hungry is the fast track to failure. If it’s just fuel that’s holding you back, it should be a quick fix.

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