Carbohydrates the energy source for the ultimate runner

It seems so easy and normal, however many people walk until they run out of energy. And this whilst carbohydrates are the most important energy sources for the body to give an optimal performance! Research has shown that the amount of carbohydrates in the diet of an athlete determines, how the athlete will cope with training and how it will influence the performance.

There are two kinds of carbohydrates:

  • Single carbohydrates like: sugars, starch and fruit sugars.
  • Complex carbohydrates like: pastas, rice, legume, vegetables, grains, oats and nuts.

When the carbohydrates run out, your body starts to use your fat as a fuel. This causes you to loose speed, because using your fat doesn’t give the same energy as carbohydrates do. So when you have to run a match longer than one and a half hour it’s important to stock up on carbohydrates.

I eat more complex carbohydrates before a training or match. I do this, because the complex carbohydrates are slowly turned into energy. Woking is very suitable for this: snow peas, sweetcorn tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and nuts in combination with rice and pastas are an ideal preparation.


During a match I eat single carbohydrates, this is because these are turned into energy easier. Mostly fruit sugars are very suitable for giving your body the extra energy that it needs. This is also the reason that drinking stops mostly have: watermelons, oranges, raisins, dried fruit or bananas. I mostly take my own food from Herbalife with me and then I will alternate this with fruit, which I like a lot. Watermelon is my favourite out of those.


Therefor it’s important to stock up on those carbohydrates during a long run. You can train your body to take up as much as possible, however there is a maximum of carbohydrates that your body will be able to store. So if you run longer than 2 hours, then you should, if you don’t want to face struggles, stock up. Do always pay attention that you will have to think ahead when it comes to food. It’s basically keeping a fire burning. When you throw a piece of wood on it regularly it will keep burning. But when you wait until your fire almost dies it will be difficult to light it again. This is the case with our body as well.

The amounts below are an advise from the NOC*NSF

Duration Carbohydrates needed for an optimal performance. Advised amounts Type of carbohydrates Glu Glu+ fru
< 45 min No carbohydrates needed Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable
45-75 min Very small amounts needed Mouth wash Most sorts of carbohydrates 0 0
1 hour -2 hours Small amounts needed Up to 30 grams an hour Most sorts of carbohydrates 0 0
2-3 hours Average amounts needed Up to 60 grams an hour Carbohydrates that can be burnt easily
(glucose, maltodextrins)
0 0
3 hours Big amounts needed Up to 90 grams an hour Only combinations of glucoses; fructose or maltodextrins: fructose (approximately 2:1)   0

0 = useful/ advised; glu = glucose; fru = fructose

Source: Noc*NSF

And how much do you actually need a day?

This differs per person and activity. Normally you will need 2.500 kcal for men and 2.000 kcal for women. When you sport you, of course use more energy and therefor you will need to stock up more. I have a nice system with which you can directly calculate the needed amount. For instance I normally need 2.061 kcal a day, of which 1.340 kcal (65%) carbohydrates.

When I start to strain, the needed amount of carbohydrates will be higher.

This depends on the length and intensity of the exercise. In the mountains during the La Bouillonnante, TDS or CCC this could rise to 4.000 or even 5.000 kcal that you will burn and therefore will need to eat. During the match this won’t be possible, however it’s very important for your recovery to do this the right way after the match.


When you walk a lot in the mountains the demand for proteins will be a lot bigger, because your body will ask for more power. Besides this, proteins are also important for the support on the burning of carbohydrates.


After the labour

Often we are so happy to have made it to the finish that we forget that we will have to eat something. However for your recovery this is a very important moment. Of course you can get a celebratory beer when you have finished. The important thing is: have some carbohydrates besides this, because this is the moment the carbohydrates will be taken up by your body very well. When you don’t do this, the recovery will often take longer. My experience is very variable, often I just really want something fat and I’m hungry, however at other times I just want to drink something and not eat anything.

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