Carbohydrate Amounts in Sports Drinks

Mike's Mix Sports Drink, Sports Nutrition 5 Comments , ,

Customized Carbohydrate amounts in Sports Drinks for Endurance Athletes during Exercise.


The following post is the first in a series that is intended for endurance athletes (runners, cyclists, triathletes, ultra-runners, etc) to provide the resources to make and customize sports drinks.

Cyclists in and around Madison, Wisconsin.

Road Cyclists in and around Madison, Wisconsin.

How much carbohydrate to include in a sports drink customized for duration

The information for this post comes primarily from two contemporary scientific reviews, which are peer-reviewed publications that review current academic research and present the cumulative findings:


Over the last 50 years, a significant amount of research has focused on optimal workout nutrition or what to consume during exercise to boost performance. Consumption of carbohydrate is consistently the most effective nutritional aid for athletes engaged in longer endurance type competitions (not considering fluid intake which is not the scope of this post). In other words: Carbs are King!  

Carbohydrate, Tapioca Maltodextrin, all-natural, non-gmo, sports drink

Spoonful of Mike’s Mix Tapioca Maltodextrin

Stored carbohydrate does not provide sufficient energy for prolonged, moderate to high-intensity exercise and consuming carbohydrate during exercise will enhance performance. Potential benefits of carbohydrate consumption increases as duration of exercise increases. For example:

If participating in a 5k race, it is not worth the time to sip a sports drink or suck down a gel, as your carbohydrate and energy needs are sufficiently maintained with stored carbohydrate in the form of glycogen. If you feel the need to drink during a short bout of exercise, water will suffice as well as any commercial sports drink. On the opposite end, an ultra-endurance racer will benefit significantly from taking the time to consume carbohydrate throughout an event.

So, how much carbohydrate?

Too little and the athlete will not maximize the potential benefit of consumed glucose for fuel and too much will result in accumulation of carbohydrate in the intestines and lead to gastric upset and reduce the rate of fluid absorption.

Carbohydrate intake advice is independent of body weight as well as training status. Recommendations may need to be adjusted downward when the absolute exercise intensity is low and thus carbohydrate oxidation rates are also low; burning more fat than glycogen.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking

The following recommendations are given for moderate to high-intensity cardiovascular exercise such as running, cycling and triathlons:

Workouts approximately one hour in duration:

A mouth rinse or small amounts of carbohydrate can result in a performance benefit; 30 grams total of carbohydrate is recommended.

Workouts 1 to 2.5 hours in duration:

Athletes are advised to ingest 30-60 g of carbohydrates per hour from a single carbohydrate source such as glucose or a glucose polymer: Here are the highest quality, purest sources we have found: dextrose (often referred to as glucose) and maltodextrin, a glucose polymer.

Workouts 2 to 3 hours in duration:

Athletes are advised to ingest 60 g of carbohydrates per hour from a single source, such as glucose or a glucose polymer (dextrose/maltodextrin)

Workouts greater than 3 hours in duration:

Athletes are advised to ingest approximately 90 g of carbohydrates per hour from a multiple, transportable carbohydrate source.

Carbohydrate ingested at high rates must be a multiple transportable source in order to allow high oxidation rates and prevent the accumulation of carbohydrate in the intestine.

  • Fructose is metabolized by the liver and offers another transport mechanism.
  • Sucrose or table sugar is a disaccharide made of equal parts glucose and fructose and is an easily obtainable source of fructose. You could also use natural honey powder which will help improve taste.


Make your own sports drink, carbohydrates

Make your own sports drink

However, increasing carbohydrates and increasing the number of carbohydrate sources does provide the potential for more energy but also increases the chances of gastric upset. If you are having intestinal discomfort from your sports drink choose the lower end of carbohydrate content and keep your sources low. A combination of 90% glucose or glucose polymers (maltodextrin and dextrose) and 10% sucrose is what I would recommend from my experiences working with ultra-athletes.

Need some recipe ideas?

Special thanks to for the following recipes with modifications made by Mike’s Mix:

Recipe #1

In a 700mL water bottle combine:

  • 5 level tablespoons of maltodextrin powder (or substitute some for equal amounts of glucose (dextrose) powder to make it sweeter)
  • 1 pinch of salt (less than ¼ teaspoon)
  • A squeeze of lemon or lime juice for taste (optional)
  • 700mL water

Nutritional information:

  • Carbohydrate: 56 grams (or 8 grams per 100mL), all glucose or glucose polymer
  • Sodium: Approx. 50mg per 100mL


Recipe #2

In a 700mL water bottle combine:

  • 4 level tablespoons of maltodextrin powder
  • 1 level tablespoons of white sugar or honey powder
  • One pinch of salt (less than ¼ teaspoon)
  • Squeeze of lemon or lime juice for taste (optional)
  • 700mL water

Nutritional information:

  • Carbohydrate: 56g (or 8 grams per 100mL), 9:1 glucose:fructose ratio
  • Sodium: Approx. 50mg per 100mL

Glucose (dextrose) and maltodextrin powder are available at Mike’s Mix and on Amazon.

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5 Responses to Carbohydrate Amounts in Sports Drinks

  1. John Osgood

    Mike, Great Article! This is something I know a lot of athletes(including myself)struggle with. When training for endurance sports, when does consumption of protein come into play? And How much is considered the right amount? Some sources I have seen in the past say after 90 mins. you should start to consume protein, others I have seen say 2 hrs. Then when you hit the magical protein threshold, how much should be consumed for continuous effort until your workout or race is done? Look forward to your response!

    • mlohre

      Hey John, I know that protein is all the rage at the moment and it doesn’t surprise me that you are seeing recommendations for protein consumption during exercise. As of right now, it is my opinion, that protein consumed during exercise does not enhance performance and should probably be avoided until your workout is completed. Again, as of yet, the research doesn’t support a performance benefit and protein may increase the probability of gastric upset. However, I highly recommend taking protein after your workout in a recovery drink.

      • John Osgood

        Mike, Thanks for the data link and feedback. The gastric upset increase makes sense as it seems protein would be harder to digest during higher activity like a workout or race. As for recovery drinks after my workout… Its always Mike’s Mix for me!

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