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Choosing a Gel or Quick Energy or Carbohydrate Source

Posted March 21, 2023 by Michelle Boltz, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

Two guys eating snacks after running

When it comes to fueling strategies during long duration exercise (exercise lasting longer than 1 hour) one must remember that carbohydrate is the master fuel.  Even before beginning exercise, it is encouraged to start with a full gas tank of muscle energy, by fueling with carbohydrates.

Below are guidelines, as represented in the Position Statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine, on Nutrition and Athletic Performance.  

  • During long training runs or races, it is recommended to fuel early and often, within the first 15 minutes. This is to boost performance, and finish strong, by preventing depletion of carbohydrate.  
  • Everybody is an individual, so you must determine what works best for you in order to provide the energy needed during exercise, without causing stomach discomfort.
  • During exercise, it is best to consume products with multiple sources of carbohydrates (ie: glucose + sucrose + fructose), as this allows for greater rates of absorption.  
  • It is recommended to include about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour, during exercise lasting longer than 60 minutes.  
  • There are a variety of sport engineered products from which to choose, including sports gels, gummies, chews and beans. Some people prefer regular, grocery store items, such as jelly beans or gummy candy.  
  • It is a good idea to try new sport products, or foods, on training days to determine which products work best for you. It is not recommended to try something new on race day. If you hope to use the sport products provided along the race course, find out what they will be ahead of time, and then practice with these products during your training sessions.  



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