What to Eat & Drink for Endurance Exercise

What to Eat & Drink for Endurance Exercise

Eating the right foods is as important as choosing the right trainers when it comes to performing at your best. If you don’t eat before training then you may not have enough fuel, but eat too much, or too close to training and you may feel sluggish.


We know that it’s best to eat at least 60 minutes before exercise to allow our bodies to digest and process the food but so far the jury is out on what is best to eat and drink before and during exercise.


Ideally we need to be consuming slow releasing (low GI) carbohydrate 2-4 hours before exercise. Try these options to get you started:


  • Meals 2-4 hours before: Porridge with milk, tuna pasta in a tomato sauce, chicken with basmati rice and vegetables, sweet potato with a cottage cheese salad
  • Snacks 1-2 hours before: Bananas & water, milk or milkshake, jam sandwich & water, isotonic sports drinks & a cereal bar


If you’re exercising for more than an hour you should consume around 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour e.g. isotonic sport drink, diluted fruit juice, energy gel, bananas etc.


Sweet potato and tuna melts

Strawberry & Banana Smoothie


Hydration is another key aspect to both physical and mental performance. How much you will need to drink will depend on your sweat rate, as well as exercise duration. An easy way to check if you’re hydrated adequately is by monitoring the colour of your urine; the darker it is, the more dehydrated you are. If you feel thirsty then it means you are already dehydrated.


Start exercise well hydrated, drink during when you’re thirsty and be sure to top up fluid levels afterwards. A change in body weight can usually indicate how much fluid you have lost (1 Kg  = 1 litre). When it comes to re-hydrating though, you will need to take on board 1.2-1.5 times this amount. To hydrate more effectively, add a pinch of salt to your water or have a drink that has added electrolytes; electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride which are lost in the sweat. Replacing these essential electrolytes helps your to maintain bodily functions and promotes more effective hydration.


Nectar Gel


Oh, and because I don’t personally train for longer than an hour at a time, I roped my friend into trying out some products (gels) specifically designed for endurance.. and here is what she said!


  • Rachel Boyd (marathon runner & triathlete): “The gels were just the right sweetness.. nice and liquid, not gloopy so went down quick and easy and I didn’t need water with it. Didn’t feel sick, kept hydrated and well fuelled for over 2 hrs.” 


How do you fuel up for endurance exercise? 


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  1. David
    March 10, 2015 / 5:14 pm

    Hi Nic

    I read this and the chia seed article, As I am tackling my first marathon on April 26. Do you have any other advice? As i am nervous and anxious about hydration and nutrition! Finally any good ideas for more natural snacks to consume during a marathon?

    Thanks for your help


    • March 10, 2015 / 8:56 pm

      Hello! I would check out Anita Bean’s book on sports nutrition 🙂 Try out snacks during practice e.g. energy gels, banana, sports drink (non fizzy) etc.. see which is easiest on your stomach! Good luck!

      • David
        March 11, 2015 / 11:09 am

        Thank you Nic. Trying to avoid gels but will try 9 bars and bananas. Thank you for your advice!! 🙂

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