Carbohydrates for the endurance athlete

Carbohydrates play a very important role in nutrition for an athlete. You may of also herd of the word glycogen, which derives from carbohydrate for energy. Its the main macronutrient of our daily diet so lets explore it some more

Why has carbohydrate got a bad name with some?

In a modern western diet, processed carbs are a huge contributor to some illness’s and its getting athletes confused as to why we need them. The processed carbohydrates are mad up of crisps/sugar/shakes or drinks/processed sandwiches and the list goes on. In general taking out the cooking or prep and making our days easier, but not necessarily healthier  as we are working more, using tech more and running out of time to look at food intake. You can see where we are going with this. They don’t satisfy hunger and have high calories to go with them to, so by eating them frequently along with a more western life (office based, sedentary) more calories are eaten and less movement during the day

Low carb will often lead to cravings such as sugar foods/energy drinks/chips – basically anything carb based and with energy that will be absorbed very quickly into your system to try and satisfy that craving. Often 30-60 mins later you need more!

What role do carbohydrates have to an athlete?

  • They are our primary source of energy (muscle/brain etc) to perform in training and everyday life
  • Glycogen (carb) stores are what are used to fuel, in particular high intensity
  • They have a bog role in cellular and organ function
  • They help conserve muscle tissue
  • they help the body to recover

Key timing for carbohydrate intake

  • Breakfast
  • within 30 mins of finishing exercise
  • before a high intensity session
  • Each meal of the day

How much should I as an endurance athlete consume/eat

This often surprises athletes but these are the guidelines to try and incorporate into your training. You’ll find lots of info on carbohydrate in sport and they don’t tend to change from these  5-10 grams of carb per KG, how does this look in your training

  • 60 mins or under – 4-7 grams of carb per KG of bodyweight
  • 60-90 mins – 5-8 grams of carb per KG of bodyweight
  • 90mins – 3 hrs – 6-9 grams of carb per KG of bodyweight
  • 3hrs+ – 8-10 grams of carb per KG of bodyweight

A couple of pictures of examples of carbs

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