The paper’s authors emphasized that it’s probably only necessary to eat during a workout if it’s two or more hours of continuous exercise. For example, Nancy Rodriguez, a sports nutritionist at the University of Connecticut who helped author the statement, said recreational runners competing in 5 or 10K races don’t need to carry water with them, and they don’t need to refuel during or after the race with a high-calorie sports drink, candy bar, or energy supplement.
However, anyone exercising for two hours or more should fuel up with carbohydrates before and probably during the workout. What you choose to consume depends on your personal preferences — many athletes experiment with different methods during long training sessions before selecting what works for them. Common snacks include single-serving energy gels such as Clif Shots, Gu, or PowerGel, or chewable fuel snacks such as Clif Shot Bloks Energy Chews. Each of these products contains glucose, which prevents the body from breaking down muscle in response to an energy deficit, and most contain caffeine for an added energy boost.
But if you’re a recreational exerciser who’s just hitting the gym a few times per week, skipping sugary snacks like these is recommended — especially if you’re exercising to lose weight. After all, the calories in just one 20-ounce original Gatorade (122) are enough to offset half of the calories burned during a 30-minute cardio session. Hydration is essential, though, so either stick to water while you exercise or have a small meal or snack before your workout comprised of easily digestible carbohydrates such as a banana.
Melinda M. Manore, a sports nutritionist at Oregon State University who was an author of the position paper, told the New York Times that moderate athletes should eat and drink soon after a workout, though a normal healthy meal that contains plenty of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fluids should be enough.
For competitive athletes or even weekend warriors training for a half marathon or other endurance event, the experts recommend eating between 2.7 and 4.5 grams of carbohydrates for every pound of body weight, and 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound. So for example, a 150-pound person should eat at least 405 grams of carbs every day, along with at least 75 grams of lean protein. Fat intake should be 20 to 35 percent of your total calories, and experts do not recommend high-fat diets for athletes.