Carbohydrates Intake Strategies For All Athletes

Carbohydrates Intake Strategies For All Athletes

Carb needs are determined by body size, activity type, intensity, and duration.

In the past it was recommended for people who were more athletic to consume 60-70% of carbs in their diet. This is completely wrong because they're not taking into account each individuals body mass, or activity related variables. It's better to calculate carb intake by using grams per kg of body weight based on that your activity level. 


Light Activity: Low intensity Workouts, and walking. 3-5 g/kg body weight.

Moderate: Running, Light workouts, 1hr a day. 5-7 g/kg body weight.

High: Endurance (1-3hr a day) 6-10 g/kg body weight.

Athlete: Extreme exercise (4-5hr a day) 8-12 g/kg body weight.


EXAMPLE: My weight is 120LBS, and I do very little activity. By taking the amount of carbs eat in a day, which is trackable on an app like MyFitnessPal. I can take that number in grams & divide it by my weight & get my carb percentage. So, i eat 510 carbs in a day (by tracking what I eat) I then divide it by 120lbs (my weight) & I get 4.25 which is right where i need to be to maintain my weight due to my low activity lifestyle. 


It's recommended to eat 30 min to an hour after a workout to replenish the body with carbs. During this recovery period cells & tissues posses an increase ability for nutrient uptake due to hormone actions. However, if you're trying to lose weight you can wait even longer. After the first 4 hours standard daily intake is based on needs can resume. 

Sometimes eating carbs during exercise is critical for performance especially if you're an endurance athlete. This helps avoid premature fatigue among high level athletes. Indeed carb ingestion can range from as high as 60-90 g/h during endurance and ultra endurance events. Regular exercises such as home workouts or even gym workouts won't recommend carbs during training.  


So what forms of carbs can you use while performing endurance exercises to ensure rapid absorption & use without digestion distress? Many sports drinks provide the best solutions with 6-8 carbs comprised of sucrose, glucose and maltodextrin. These are carbs that can be absorbed quickly and used quickly by the body for energy.


Carb loading simply involves eating large amounts of carbs before competition to increase sugar storage and performance. Loading is most useful for endurance events greater than 90 mins. 

When loading is implemented correctly it will:

  • increase glucose transport & glycogen synthesis. 
  • improve anabolic hormone secretion (human growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1, insulin, and testosterone)
  • increase carb metabolism.


Depletion Method: the most intensive carb loading because it is extremely effective. Implemented in the 6-7 days leading up the endurance training event. First 3 days consist of hard fatiguing exercise, while eating minimum carbs (aka starve yourself) 10% of total kcals. Next 3-4 days until the event involve minimal exercise or rest and carb intake of 10g per kg of body weight. You will deplete your carb storage making your enzymes more active which improves performance. 

Drawbacks are: Can expose your body to more injury, illness, psychological issues, and excess fatigue.  

Taper Method: The most common method, it eliminates the depletion phase while promoting a similar increase in glycogen stores. This involves a short 3 day tapering of exercise and rest before the event, eating 8-10g per kg of body weight. This is the most popular choice.

Single Bout Method: The least common method for endurance but it's good for team sports & anaerobic sports. Hit an intense workout 24hrs before your sports event then consume 10-12 g/kg of body weight over the next 24hrs through grazing. KEY: workout the same muscles in the 24hrs before the event that you will use in the event. All the food you eat in that 24hrs will enhance the performance of that muscle group for their use in the sporting event. Then eat after the event to replenish those same muscles. The only potential downside is sore muscles, but if you do it correctly it's less likely. 

Thats all for today!❤️ 

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