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How to Fuel: During and After Activity

June 20, 2019 2 min read

Now that we've gone over how to fuel in the days leading up to a long training session or race, it's time to chat about how to fuel during the activity and after. If you missed the first part of our How to Fuel series, you can check it out here

How you fuel during endurance activity can have a massive impact on your performance. Krista and Megan, Registered Dietitians and Elite Runners have shared some great tips and suggestions to help ensure your race-day fuel plan is on point.

During Activity:

  • Carbohydrates are the only fuel type needed during endurance exercise
  • Choose: low fibre, fat and protein options
  • Select fuel sources that are convenient and take small amounts over time 
  • Can be in gels or fluids or both.


  • For exercise lasting 1-2.5 hours, carb targets are 30-60 grams per hour (1-2.5 Endurance Taps/hr)
  • For exercise  lasting over 2.5 hours, carb targets are 60-90 grams per hour (2.5-3.5 Endurance Taps/hr)
  • Start on the lower side of the carb targets, if successful, then increase e.g. add 15 g every 15 min (half a Tap), or increase by 1 gel per training session/race
  • Carbohydrate targets during exercise don't change based on body weight.

Example: 2 hr event, 2 hr x 40 g carbohydrate/hour=80 g total

Start with 3 ET gels, 3 ET gels x 25 g = 75 g (close to the 80 g total or 40 g/hour)

If successful, try 4 ET gels, 4 ET gels x 25 g carb/gel = 100 g total or 50 g/hour

Then work up to 5 ET gels, 5 ET gels x 25g  carb/gel= 125 g total or ~63 g/hour

  • If consuming fluids that contain carbohydrates (sports drinks), you would need to calculate accordingly by adding this into your grams of carbohydrate consumed per hour.
  • Gels are specifically made in right combination of carbohydrates to allow for optimal gut absorption so we can get up to 90 g carb/h (some can train themselves to tolerate more, it takes practice!)
  • Consuming gels with sports drinks can cause GI issues for some.
  • Gels may be better tolerated with water or a carb-free electrolyte beverage.

Pro-Tips from Krista:

  • Alternate between gels and sports drinks, but you’ll need to know the course and where the fuelling stations are located..
  • The amount of carbohydrates/hour needed remains the same, regardless of race conditions.
  • However, the amount of fluid does not remain the same: more fluids when warm temps, less fluids when cold temps.
  • Train your gut ahead of the race!

Roughly how many times do you practice your race day fuel plan during training before the event?

KD: “Hmmmm, about 2-3 times/month in my longer marathon pace workouts. So, in a 12-week build, that would be 6-9 times. Write it down in your training log and make notes e.g. GI issues or not”.

After Activity:

  • Recovery window is 2 hrs after exercise


  • Hydration during activity assists recovery
  • Have a snack within ~15-30 min after exercise
  • Be prepared
  • Aim for a combination of high carbohydrate and moderate protein
  • Consume in small amounts; sips/small bites