Fuelling up

By Ryan S. Blair



ONE OF ASIA’S TOP ADVENTURE SPORT ATHLETES, RYAN BLAIR (shown above training in HK) is co-founder of a group of outdoor companies (www.APA.co), and Director of The North Face and Specialized-sponsored Champion System Adventure athlete team. Ahead of the coming race season, he gives us his take on what to eat and drink to be at your best.

The night before 

  • Eat a normal-size meal of complex carbs, easy-to-digest proteins and healthy fats. Salmon pasta is a good choice.
  • For single day races carbo-loading is not necessary – your body can’t process all the extra calories.
  • Hydrate well so pee is clear.

Morning of the race 

  • Eat three hours before the race if possible. If you eat closer to the start time, cut down the amount you eat.
  • Keep it light and simple and mostly carbs. Oatmeal or cereal (with low fat milk) and a banana is perfect.
  • Drink water (around 0.5 litre/hr) until around 30 minutes before the start. Then stop drinking and try to pee out as much as you can with always one last pee just before the start – you don’t want to have to stop on the trail.

During the race 

  • Only use food and drink you have tested in training. Some gels and bars brands can be very sweet – many find GU have milder flavours.
  • Eat a gel or something else (around 100 calories) every 45-60min depending on experience, pace and if you are consuming sports drink.
  • For shorter races, stick with water, sports drink and gels.
  • Over four hours, add a bit of protein also – a bar or gel with protein is perfect. The higher your heart rate the more you should stick to something easy to digest. Heavier bars, or food high in fat or with too much protein will just get stuck in your gut and take energy to digest.
  • If you are out for more than six hours or so, your body will crave real food. If you have a support team, a sweet potato or soup can do wonders!
  • Be careful with aid stations and don’t assume organisers and sponsors know what’s best for you.
  • Aim to drink around 0.66 litre of water per hour. You can’t process much more and over-hydrating can also lead to cramps and more serious issues.
  • Choose a sports drink with more electrolytes and not just sugary water. It’s crucial to aim for a full spectrum of minerals, not just sodium.
  • Don’t overdo the sports drink – even in a hot race I find less than a litre appropriate every couple of hours. Remember you are getting some electrolytes also from gels and other food. Too much mixing can cause stomach distress.


  • To maximise recovery and/or gain the most from your effort, eat 45 minutes or less after your race or training session
  • Ideally eat a recovery snack or drink with a 3- or 4-to-1 carbs to protein ratio eg. low-fat chocolate milk, a smoothie with whey protein, and some bread with honey.

Remember, all the above advice is based on my personal experience and bodyweight (68kg) – you may find something else works better for you. There are lots of tasty race foods out there so keep experimenting – not on race day of course – to find something you also enjoy!