Over the past few years carbohydrates seem to have picked up a bit of bad reputation. But for those that are physically active, carbohydrates have an essential role to play in providing the energy needed to exercise. We're here to explain more about the importance of carbohydrates.

The General Facts

  • Glycogen is the most efficient fuel for our body to use during exercise and it comes from carbohydrates. But we only have limited stores of glycogen in our muscles and liver to draw upon.
  • Our stores only last for around an hour and when they are low or run out, we become tired and unable to train at the same intensity. This is because are body is now relying on our fat stores. Now this might sound great but fat is actually a much slower release energy store, which is not great when you are training hard.
  • This is why when exercising for over 90 minutes, athletes are encouraged to take on board carbohydrates to allow maintenance of energy levels and training intensity.

Did you know?

Research has found that eating carbohydrates during intense or prolonged exercise is one of the best ways to look after your immune system and reduce immunosuppression after training.

Day to Day carbohydrates intake

  • Like most things in nutrition, carbohydrate requirements differ dependent on an athletes daily energy expenditure, gender, type of training and training conditions (for example altitude ramps up energy expenditure, read more here).
  • Total daily intake of carbohydrates for someone in regular endurance training is usually 6-10g per kg of body weight. However this should change with daily training load. So on rest days it would be advised to reduce carbohydrate intake compared to big training day, as ultimately excessive unused carbohydrates stores turn to fat. The average person who maybe exercise for 1 hour or less a day would only need 3-5g per kg of body weight.

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carbohydrate intake during exercise

  • Research would say optimal carbohydrate intake for moderate intensity exercise is 60g per hour but this can slightly vary depending on weight and training intensity. You can use our Energy System to work out the best in take for you, just click here.
  • OTE products have been specially designed to make it easy for you to work out how much energy you are putting in, helping to prevent you from under or over eating. We have used 20g units to make the carbohydrates maths easy, lets just quickly break that down for you:

One Energy Gel = 1 x 20g carb unit

One 500ml Bottle of Energy Drink = 2 x 20g carb unit

One Duo Bar = 2 x 20g carb unit

One 500ml Bottle of Super Carbs Energy Drink = 4 x 20g carb unit

One Anytime Bar = 2 x 20g carb unit


  • If you are training for 90 minutes or less, fuelling during probably isn’t necessary if you have fuelled correctly before and do so after. However, if you haven’t had the opportunity to eat a meal containing carbohydrates before training then eating during is advised.
  • Remember, you will have used up your glycogen stores during training so as part of your recovery make sure you replenish those stores with some carbohydrates after training (read more about optimal recovery here).


Did you know?

If you avoid consuming carbohydrates during long or intense training sessions then your body may actually turn to breaking down your muscle as an energy store! This is not what you want as it can reduce your sporting performance or prevent you from adapting to your training.

The bottom line is, our bodies are like a machine that needs fuel. If you don’t put the right fuel in then you won’t be able to train as hard and therefore won’t see benefits from your training. Eating is not cheating, so remember to have carbohydrates with you when training.

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