Recommendations for carb intake during exercise

Now we have come to the blog that puts it all together and talks about the recommendations for carbohydrate intake during exercise. First it is essential to know what the goal of an exercise session or workout is before we can recommend carbohydrate amounts and types. If the goal is an optimal performance, the following recommendations are appropriate.

carbohydrate intake recommendations sports nutrition exercise science

So far we have seen:

  • Not all carbohydrates are equal, some are used more rapidly than others and those are the ones we need for optimal performance (Read more here)

  • Carbohydrate intake even small amounts can improve performance during prolonged exercise (>2h) but more seems to be better (Read more here)

  • Your body cannot use more than 60 g/h of a single carbohydrate (Read more here)

  • This limitation can be overcome by using multiple transportable carbohydrates like maltodextrins and fructose or glucose and fructose (Read more here)

  • Intakes of 90 g/h of glucose fructose can enhance performance during exercise >2.5h (Read more here)

  • Carbohydrate intake and even a mouth rinse can improve performance during shorter, high intensity such as a 40km time trial (Read more here)

Based on this we have put together a chart that can help you to determine how much and what carbohydrates you need. To determine how much carbohydrate is recommended, we need to know the exercise duration.


Exercise <30min

If the exercise is less than 30 min there is no need to take in any carbohydrate. There is little or no evidence that carbohydrate intake or a mouth rinse does anything. It may not harm, but there does not seem to be a need.


If the exercise is less than 30 min there is no need to take in any carbohydrate

Exercise 45-75 min

When the exercise is a little longer, say 45-75 min and it is “all-out” for that duration, performance will benefit from either carbohydrate intake or a carbohydrate mouth rinse. What is best depends on the practicalities of ingesting carbohydrate. Sometimes it is easier to simply rinse and sometimes it will be just as easy to swallow the carbohydrate solution. The types of carbohydrate does not seem to matter much here.

Prolonged exercise

For exercise lasting 1-2 hours, some carbohydrate has been shown to improve performance and 30 grams per hour is probably sufficient. With increasing duration, it is recommended to increase the intake up to 60 g/h and beyond 2.5h ev