Let's Talk Carbs
Carbs are currently having a negative moment. From grain free everything to paleo to whole30 to keto… carbohydrates are being shunned. Athletes, be warned, banning carbs from your diet will cost you a winning performance. So let’s have a little chat about why carbs are so vital. I’ve talked about carbohydrates at length in the past, so this will be a nice topic overview. I’ve linked to more in-depth posts on these topics throughout this page and at the bottom, so if you need details, keep reading!
Why? How Much?? When??? Which Carbs????
Your muscles store around 400 grams of carbohydrates & the liver stores roughly 100 grams. However this varies per person, and exhausting body stores shouldn’t be the training goal.
Carbohydrates are the most used (and most efficiently used) source by your body during exercise.
When exercising at 65% of VO2Max, carbs account for about half of energy being used which raises two-thirds when intensities increase to 85% of VO2Max.
When you begin to fatigue, exogenous carbohydrates become increasingly vital to performance.
If you’ve ever bonked or hit the wall, it is simply because you skimped on carbs!
Most athletes need 6-7 grams carbohydrate (CHO) / kg / day. Ultra endurance athletes will need more and those training less than 7 hours a week are fine off less. If you’re looking to carb load, aim for 10-12g CHO/kg/day. Interesting Research.
Before training - aim for easy to digest carbs (bananas, oatmeal, cereal, rice pudding, juice, granola bar) at a rate of roughly 1g CHO / kg / hr prior to training. Interesting Research.
During training - take in simple carbs (gummies, gels, bars, sport drink, banana) starting early in the event for 45-90 minutes at high intensity or lasting over 90 minutes. You’ll want a minimum of 45g CHO/ hr and up to 90g CHO/hr for ultra endurance events. Your body has a ceiling of 100g CHO/ hr so training to get super close to that will help maximize your performance. Interesting Research.
After training - to rapidly restore energy after training, take in ~60g CHO in simple form (milk, banana, gummies, sport drink) immediately upon finishing.
What about when I’m not training?
Meals outside training should be balanced and include complex carbohydrates (buckwheat, quinoa, root veggies, corn, fruit, vegetables).
What if I want to lose weight?
Performance fueling needs do not change because you’re trying to lose weight. Keep adding carbohydrates to your training as listed above, but limit carbohydrates in meals outside training.