Recommended fueling for optimal health and performance

Recommended fueling for optimal health and performance


For most of your training sessions you should not use sports nutrition. Instead drink plain water and eat real food. The sports nutrition industry have conned the general public into believing that we are under-hydrated and that we need sugar at the first sign of sweat. This is simply not the case. Your thirst mechanism will tell you when you need to drink and how much. Your body will tell you if you need fuel. Listen to your body.

In practice what does healthy training fueling look like? Well that depends on the athlete, the session, and how “fat adapted” they are.

Easy, short training

Most reasonably fit people should be able to go out and run at an easy pace for an hour or ride a bike for two hours without needing anything but water. If you go longer then that you may start to need some calories. Some good choices are a trail mix of nuts and dried fruit, bananas, baby boiled potatoes, home made rice cakes or dark chocolate.

Long training

If your training session is really long and it is no longer practical to carry real food then use a sports product. A fit, efficient fat burner may need less then 25g of carbohydrate per hour in a long training session. A less fit or adapted person may need 50g per hour or more.

High intensity training

If you are doing short high intensity training you may want to use sports nutrition. When the body is under intense stress a carbohydrate drink has been shown to improve performance. It seems sensors in the mouth message the brain that everything is going to be ok because fuel is on the way.  Small amounts of carbohydrate (25g) should be more then sufficient for a 60 minute very hard session.

Race specific training

In preparation for a race practice fueling using the same fuel, in the same quantity, to be used during a race. In the final 6 weeks leading into an event pick a few race preparation sessions and fuel accordingly. If you plan is to take in 60g of carbohydrate per hour during the race then practice this during these race preparation sessions.


It makes sense to use sports products during races. If the intensity is high then carbohydrates in liquid form are an excellent choice. How much carbohydrate you need per hour largely depends on the intensity of the effort and how much carbohydrate you have in your diet. The more carbohydrate you eat everyday the more you need in training and during races. For someone that eats less then 200g per day a good starting point in races would be 50g of carbohydrate per hour. If you eat a high carbohydrate diet of 300 or 400g grams per day then may need up to 90g per hour in race situations. The obvious question is why would you want to take in less carbohydrate? There are a number of benefits to adapting to low or moderate carbohydrate intake ;

Less calories for your stomach to deal with. Exercise pulls blood to the working muscles and organs and away from the stomach. If becomes more difficult to process calories when you are going hard.

Metabolic flexibility or the ability to burn more fat for fuel at higher intensities. Instead of relying on your glycogen stores for fuel when the intensity goes up you can teach your body to use a greater percentage of fat for energy.

Less inflammation. Sugar is inflammatory. By reducing our intake of simple sugar we lower inflammation. One of the primary drivers for disease is inflammation.

Weight loss for those that cannot process carbohydrate effectively. If you are an endurance athlete and are overweight then it is likely that your diet contains too much carbohydrate.

Dental health. Every wondered what all that sugar does to your teeth? Whole foods have less impact on your tooth enamel then refined simple sugars.

Elite athletes or those looking to race and train at a very high level

If elite performance rather then good health is your primary driver then high carbohydrate intake seems to work. For very lean, very fast athletes there is a period in their lives where high dietary carbohydrate enables big volume training and fast racing. This kind of “elite” high carbohydrate diet is often what makes age group athletes fat and slow.

How to become more metabolically efficient

Training and the timing of your carbohydrate intake will help make you more metabolically efficient . The simple act of exercising makes you a better fat burner. The timing and content of meal is also very important. Limit you intake of carbohydrates before you go and train and only begin fueling when your body tells you it is time. How does this look in practice? Wake up have a cup of coffee or tea and head out the door. When you get hungry eat something. That bowl of cereal before leaving the house is not helping you become leaner and better at metabolizing fat. If you have a long session planned then it is useful to eat some fat and protein for breakfast. Something like eggs or a BARRE BODY shakes with coconut cream.

Instead of avoiding fat eat it. Try and get some of your training calories from foods that contain fat like a natural bar or some nuts.

Post training and during training is the time to restock your glycogen stores so that is the time for most of your daily carbohydrate intake. A recovery shake and a meal that contains carbohydrate will ensure you are feeling good for the next session.

What to eat everyday

Firstly don’t sweat the details and obsesses about diet. Stress raises cortisol levels so any gains you might make eating better are lost through stress.

Eliminate inflammatory foods from your diet.

This includes all grains with the possible exception of rice. That means no bread, pasta or cereals. It does not matter if it is rye, ancient grains, buckwheat, spelt, or oats. All of these slightly toxic to humans and cause inflammation. Avoid any packaged cereal including Special K, Future Life or anything else in a box pretending to be a health food. This includes muesli and granola. Do not replace grains with gluten free options made from rice or tapioca flour.

No sugar except as described above for training and racing. That means no sugar in coffee or tea. It also means no fruit juice or sodas. No sweet drinks in your everyday diet. No sweetened dairy or any processed foods that contain added sugar.

That is it! Cut out grains and sugar and you most of the way there. What is left is mostly real food in it’s natural state. Eat that way and you will discover how amazing your body truly is. A remarkable organism that has the capacity to heal itself if you allow it to.

Low carbohydrate diets for athletes

If you are a hard charging athlete make sure that you get sufficient carbs from low inflammatory sources like rice, sweet potato, fruit and vegetables. A good starting point is 200g per day. Athletes that attempt very low carbohydrate diets (less then 100g day) are placing their bodies under a lot of stress. A moderate approach is usually healthier.

If you are overweight and have visible signs of a belly then reduce your carb intake. If you don’t burn the carbs you use you will store it them as fat.

Non athletes or sedentary people usually only need trace amounts of carbohydrate and will likely be better off on less then 100g per day.

Typical carbohydrate content of select foods

Rice cooked – 1 cup 45g

Apple – 25g

Banana – 27g

Cup of whole milk – 12g

Sweet potato boiled  – 1 cup 58g

Cashews raw – small handful 10g

Balsamic vinegar – 1 Tbsp 2.7g