Yes! Carbohydrates are an integral component to an active lifestyle, especially for endurance athletes. Having the right amount of fuel at the right time can make or break performance. Every person is different in their tolerance and there is no one ‘perfect’ equation to it, so it’s important to experiment during training to see what works best. I know I’m preaching to the choir out there, but here are some general carb guidelines for performance:
In general . . .
- 50-65% CHO or about 5-10g/kg per day for active
- 40-50% complex CHO, <10% simple CHO
- 70% CHO for heavy endurance training, not for long term but for days before a big event
- CHO is the energy source for anaerobic glycolysis and primary energy source for high intensity activities
Pre-Competition . . .
- Make sure you have a sound diet during training because you can’t make up for nutritional inadequacies that quickly.
- Focus on easily digestible/low-fiber foods a 1-2 days before unless your body can handle it
- Meals should be higher in CHO and relatively lower in protein and fat
- Protein requires ~7x more water with an additional ~50cc of water lost for each gram of urea produced
- Stress/Nerves can alter and slow digestion
- Never try something new right before/during the event
If you have . . . 3-4 hours before the event
- Nice, big substantial meal
- 60-70% CHO, low residue/fiber (3-5g/kg)
2 hours before the event
- Lighter meal (solids and/or liquids depending on the person)
- 60-70% CHO, low residue/fiber (2g/kg)
1 hour before the event
- Snack or CHO beverage
- 60-70% CHO, low residue/fiber (1g/kg)
- aim for low glycemic index foods or add a little bit of protein (scoop of pb) if reactive hypoglycemia is common)
3 hours = 3g/kg 2 hours = 2g/kg 1 hour = 1g/kg
So depending on how much time you have before the event dictates how much is recommended to eat, but it really depends on the person and their individual tolerance. Most events are early in the morning and someone isn’t going to get up at 2 am so they can eat a substantial meal. They would want to make sure they eat/drink something that will satisfy their hunger, replenish and stock their stores lost overnight without causing GI distress.
During the event . . .
This is really only needed when the exercise is intense (~70% VO2 Max) and it will last longer than 1-1.5 hours, and/or if the weather is hot and humid. Athletes can use 30-60g CHO per hour so it’s important to keep the BS stable and prevent depletion or else the body will just stop or ‘hit the wall’.
- Ingest 15-20g CHO every 15-20 min of mixed CHO sources to utilize all the intestinal transporters and maximize absorption. I just try to shoot for at least 1/2-1L of fluid an hour and a packet of gummies because I can’t stomach the CHO drinks.
- Avoid only fructose because it can delay gastric emptying and cause GI distress in some.
- 6-8% CHO solutions are best
- CHO supplementation before and during events has an additive effect
- Delaying replenishment until towards the end can increase BG, but not enhance performance
After the event . . .
- It takes about 20 hours to rebuild glycogen stores
- 1-1.5g/kg within 15-30 minutes and then 1-1.5g/kg every 2 hours until 7-10g/kg is reached. This is especially important for the athlete who has another event soon.
- CHO/PRO has no benefit on glycogen synthesis, but protein is very important for muscle recovery.
- Most important factor is the AMOUNT of CHO, not necessarily if it is high or low GI, although high GI appears best to maximize stores.
CHO loading is also another strategy athletes use before an event. A good way to tell if it is working is to watch the trends on the scale. If you are gaining weight that means you are storing glycogen because for each gram of glycogen, there is 3g of water weight gained.
Because Chris is getting ready to race a century (118 mile) ride in 2 weeks, I’ve been using him as my guinea pig to help him maximize his performance with nutrition. I think the main thing for him the week before is going to be eating MORE, lots more, to fuel his ride that will take at least 6.5 hours to finish. The last big ride he burned about 2,800 kcals in 4 hours, wow that’s almost a pound!
Speaking of carbs, I definitely include complex and simple carbs in most of my meals because I’m pretty active, they are healthy and I like them! I think my favorite type of carb is pasta in any form if you hadn’t noticed by all the pasta recipes I post :)
I went to the farmer’s market today and got lots of goodies: kabocha (Not to be confused with kambucha tea, so sorry for my misspelling earlier!!), apples, pears, lemon thyme, wild chanterelle mushrooms and vanilla beans. So many recipe ideas rolling through my brain!
I decided to experiment with these beauties . . .
I didn’t really have anything planned for dinner since our leftovers ran out, so I decided on a simple dish: chanterelle papparadelle with a lemon thyme sauce. I had never had these mushrooms before and they were very earthy and meaty and went well with the lemon thyme. I had some of TJ’s lemon pepper pasta leftover and it went well too. I just sautéed the mushrooms and a shallot, made a roux with butter, flour and non-fat milk (salt, pepper, & a small pinch of cayenne) and added 2 tbsp lemon thyme and mixed it all together.
Overall a quick, satisfying dinner! I sure wanted to have a glass of sauvignon blanc with this! FYI: wine is no good for performance darn-it!
What are some strategies you use to maximize your performance?