Walk into any running, cycling, or outdoor store and you will see it: Racks of colorful, shiny wrappers offering instant calories and balanced nutrition for athletes on the move. Often, these items are on display at group runs and weekend rides, too, during which eager participants scarf down calories to fuel the machine.
But is it necessary to fuel during—or even before—a workout? Are these calories keeping up going, or keeping us from dropping unnecessary pounds?
According to Nancy Rodriguez, a sports nutritionist at the University of Connecticut, most workouts don’t require refueling with additional calories. Runners—even competitive athletes—racing five or 10 kilometers, she says, “don’t need the CamelBaks and don’t need to have that Hershey bar or Powerade or Clif shot.”
Every person is different but this typically holds true even for workouts lasting an hour or more.
Nutritionists agree, however, that refueling becomes important after the two-hour mark. It’s at this point that the body’s natural stores of glycogen become depleted. It’s one of the causes of the infamous “wall” marathon runners face.
The take away, then, is simple: Always listen to your body but save the carbo-loading and fast calories for races and workouts lasting more than two hours.