How much carbohydrate do I need?
Your carbohydrate levels depend on your age, gender, weight and sporting activity. A high intensity sport will make heavy demands upon carbohydrate stores and can only be maintained for a short period of time.
Whereas a low intensity exercise, such as a long distance running will draw upon fat stores once glycogen is exhausted. This is very useful if you are looking to reduce body fat but there is also the risk of fatigue. If you are looking to reduce body fat then you will need to reduce your calorie intake so that your expenditure is more than your intake.
In other words, you burn off more calories than you take in. If you do this then you will lose weight (and body fat). The most efficient way of doing so is to combine a reduced calorie intake with cardio and resistance training.
Carbohydrate intake also depends on the length of training. For example, if you train from 90 minutes up to 3 hours then you will require 700g of carbohydrate – although this applies to a 70kg athlete.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for 7 to 10g* of carbohydrate on your training days although you will need to reduce this on your rest days. You should consume around 5g* of carbohydrate on your rest days.
* This is based upon 5 to 7g of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight. So, if you weigh 50kg and train for 2 hours a day, you will require 250 to 350g of carbohydrate. If you train for 4 hours or more then you could be looking at a carbohydrate intake of 500 to 600g each day.
Eating little and often will ensure that you ingest the maximum amount of carbohydrate needed for optimum performance. This can take a bit of organisation when trying to fit it around work, commuting and family commitments. But, a bit of planning beforehand can help, for example, taking small, low GI snacks to work. These can be a piece of fruit such as a banana, a couple of slices of multigrain crispbread or a handful of nuts and seeds.
When trying to meet your daily carbohydrate requirements ensure that you consume both sugar and starch carbohydrates. Starches such as pasta, bread, rice and potatoes are good choices but remember to include some sugary carbohydrates as well.
We know that sugary carbohydrates have a minimal nutritional value but they are a very good source of energy during intense exercise. If you require a quick energy boost then consume a glucose based product. Energy gels and sports drinks such as ‘Lucozade’ are ideal as these contain glucose along with electrolytes to prevent cramping and dehydration.
Sports Nutrition Guide Index:
- Sports Nutrition Intro
- Are nutritional requirements the same for every sport?
- Nutrition and types of sports
- Good food choices for sport and exercise
- The importance of carbohydrates
- But what is ‘glycogen?’
- How much carbohydrate do I need?
- Fluid intake
- How much water is enough?
- Sports supplements