How Sarah is fuelling for a 30km coastal trek (and how you can still run long-distance if you’re sugar-free)

By Marie-Antoinette Issa |

IQS: Fuel for endurance athletes

If you’re gearing up for your first long-distance event, you might be wondering how to fuel your body while still remaining sugar-free?

Despite studies showing that , many amateur endurance athletes – marathon runners and long-distance hikers – still reach for fructose-filled foods like dried fruits and sugary energy drinks and gels to sustain them.

But is that the only way to push through your 42.2km?

Our Keys2words: expert, personal trainer , offers alternative sources of energy, while reveals how she is preparing for her 30km walk this weekend.

Why is fuelling correctly so important?

Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for endurance athletes. But they don’t need to come from sugary food and drink. “Our body utilises carbohydrates for the replenishment of glycogen levels, to adapt to training loads and to reduce the risk of overtraining,” says Diana.  

“A professional endurance athlete who exercises for up to five hours a day requires a daily carbohydrate intake of 6–12g per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 60kg you would need approximately 700–800g of carbohydrates a day.”

You may not be training that much, but for long sessions or event days, the trick is to eat the right carbs at the right time.

“To perform at your peak it is important to maintain a steady flow of quality carbohydrates. And while it’s ideal to eat small meals regularly, this may vary dependant on the time of the event,” Diana says. “For an evening marathon, have a big breakfast and a lighter snack lunch. If it’s a morning event ensure you eat a good dinner then have an early breakfast prior.”

Put down the pasta!

Before you reach for a starchy bowl of pasta, Diana suggests sticking to slow-release-energy vegetables instead. Build out meals with lentils, oats, kidney beans, brown rice or a soup and toasted sandwich.

“You could also try two slices of Not Quite Banana Bread or a few sweet potato Power Balls for every one to two hours of exercise,” she says. 

These Power Balls are the ideal snack to take with you as you train. And of course, it’s equally important to eat after exercise too, when the body is replacing lost glycogen.

Powering down with protein.

Protein’s primary purpose is to build and repair muscle rather than provide energy. “But we need our muscles to produce energy, generate heat and drive the body, so eat a palm-sized serving of protein at every meal,” Diana says.

If you supplement your diet with a protein powder – either as a shake or as part of fuelling snack – ensure you sure you pick a brand that doesn’t have sugar.

Step away from the Gatorade.

Sweating during strenuous activity releases water, salt and trace amounts of electrolytes.

However, since sweat is approximately, you’re better off rehydrating with pure H2O, rather than ingesting the 36g of sugar in a 600ml bottle of !

The high sugar and salt levels in electrolyte-infused drinks can actually leave you even thirstier, too.

Pick gelatin over gels.

A long-time , Sarah will be taking part in this weekend. The 30–55km fundraising challenge runs along some of Sydney’s most beautiful coastlines and can take up to 18 hours to complete.

Sarah says, “In general, my go-to fuel is a handful of gummies before I head off (the Bulletproof Coffee ones from my book, , are probably the best bet), with a sprinkle of salt and I add coconut milk as well. A much better option than a carby sugary goob!”

Have you participated in any endurance events or sports? What are your go-to snacks?

Please be respectful of other participants in the conversation. We'd love you to keep your comments respectful, friendly and relevant. Differences of opinion are welcome, but trolling and abuse of other commentators and the IQS editorial team is not and will result in blacklisting.

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