Carbohydrates are the most important sources of energy for endurance athletes. No matter what your discipline, carbohydrates provide the energy that fuels muscle contractions. When you ingest carbohydrates, they get broken down into smaller sugars (Glucose, Fructose and Galactose) that get absorbed and used as energy. Any glucose not needed at that point gets stored as muscle and liver glycogen. Once these glycogen stores are filled up, any extra gets stored as fat.
When training, if muscle glycogen breakdown exceeds its replacement, glycogen stores become depleted. This will then bring about fatigue and an inability to maintain training and racing intensity. In order to replenish and maintain glycogen stores, the athlete's diet needs to be carbohydrate-rich.
Daily carbohydrate needs are based on your hours of training per day and your weight regardless of gender. Your daily carbohydrate needs are as follows:
- 1 to 2 hours of training per day requires about 2.5 to 3.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day.
- 2 to 3 hours of training per day requires about 3.5 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day.
- 4 to 6 hour or more of training per day requires about 5 to 6 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day.
For example: a 175 pound person that is training an average of 2 hours per day will need 612.5 grams of carbohydrates for the entire day (e.g. 175 x 3.5 = 612.5 grams of carbohydrates).
There are many good sources of Carbohydrates out there. It is best to use more complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potatoes and whole grains. These release their energy more sustainable allowing your body to make better use of the glycogen that is synthesised from these foods. Faster G.I Carbohydrates such as fruit and sugars are fast acting and allow your body to access the glycogen very quickly. These are best to ingest during or just before or just after workout allowing your body to get some energy on board quickly.
People often think that carbohydrates are only for before and during exercise, but they are also just as important for recovery. Research has shown that carbohydrates speed up recovery as they replenish your glycogen stores, giving your body more energy to perform natural functions such as repairing tissue with protein and keeping your immune system fighting fit. Ideally you would go for a carbohydrate-protein mix post workout in order to give yourself the best possible recovery nutrients; a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 is shown to be the most effective.
You can do this all mostly with actual food sources as I have mentioned above, however there are some good products out there that you can use in order to make you life a bit easier and get some extra, more specific, nutrients on board.
Some great Carbohydrate products I use myself can be found below...
PhD Nutrition Battery RRP: £19.99 Monster Price: £13.99!
High5 Energy Gel RRP: £19.80 Monster Price: £15.99!
Reflex Native Instant Mass RRP: £101.99 Monster Price: £57.95!