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What is the best best source of carbohydrate fuel for a race?

The best source of carbohydrate for a race largely depends on personal preference, digestion, and what you've successfully trained with in the past. 

Here are some commonly used sources of carbohydrates for races:

  1. Drinks:

    • Types: Ready-to-drink or powder mix.
    • Considerations: Pay attention to carbohydrate concentration. Very high concentrations may slow stomach emptying, causing discomfort and limiting absorption. Conversely, too low a concentration means consuming large volumes of fluid, leading to increased urination. Optimal sports drinks have a 6-7% carbohydrate concentration.
  2. Energy Gels:

    • Carbohydrate Concentration: Approximately 30%.
    • Considerations: When consumed without water, gels can lead to stomach discomfort and fullness due to their high carbohydrate content. It's essential to drink fluids alongside gels. Gels are convenient to consume compared to larger quantities of drinks or chewable foods.
  3. Bars:

    • Variability: Bars can vary widely in carbohydrate, fat, and fiber content. Check nutritional information before choosing.
    • Recommendation: Opt for low-fat, low-fiber, and low-protein energy bars for quick and easy digestion. They can help prevent feelings of hunger or an empty stomach, which is common toward the end of a race. Some bars have high carbohydrate content (e.g., 60g), making them efficient for carrying a substantial amount of carbohydrate. Consider breaking them into smaller feedings for a constant delivery of carbohydrate.
  4. Chews:

    • Similar to Gels: Chews have high carbohydrate content with minimal to no protein, fat, or fiber.
    • Considerations: Like gels, chews need to be consumed with fluids. They also require chewing, which can be challenging while racing.

Important consideration: Personal preference and practice

The ultimate factor in choosing carbohydrate sources during the race is comfort and familiarity. While all options are effective for providing carbohydrates, the method you choose should align with your personal preferences. It's crucial to practice using these sources during training to determine what works best for you.

Remember, the goal is to ensure you're getting the right amount of carbohydrate to fuel your marathon, regardless of the form it comes in.

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