The Importance of Nutrition and Carbohydrates for Athletic Performance

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Why Carbs Are Important

Good nutrition is a key aspect of health for everyone and is particularly important in the training regime of any athlete. Not ingesting enough – or the right kind of food will result in a lack of important nutrients, leading to less than optimal health and inadequate energy reserves. This is especially true when it comes to carbohydrates (‘Carbs’).

Conversely, there seems to have been an ‘anti-Carb’ movement in recent years, accompanied by recommendations for hi-protein, hi-fat and even low-carb, or carbohydrate restriction diets. These approaches, it has been suggested, will help to lose weight, improve health, and even improve performance for competitive athletes. Much of this information, however, lacks substantial scientific evidence. In contrast, more than 50 years of scientific evidence has overwhelmingly shown that a good carbohydrate diet is crucial to maintaining and improving athletic performance.

The real-life experiences of elite athletes confirm these scientific findings. For example, Kenyan runners have dominated international events for decades and are regarded as the best endurance runners in history. The percentage of carbohydrates in their diet is 76.5%, and 20% of their total daily caloric intake comes from sugar!1 Overwhelmingly then, the evidence is very clear that a diet well supplied with carbohydrates is of great importance.

Many recreational and even competitive athletes are not aware of this information. They may even deliberately restrict carbohydrates because of something they have read or heard. For example, a recent study found that 30% of a group of 99 competitive cyclists had little knowledge of muscle glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate).2 These athletes were, therefore, unwittingly putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who were aware of this information and thus able to achieve at optimal carbohydrate levels.

The Important Take-home Message

Be sure your source of information regarding nutrition for athletic performance comes from validated sources. MuscleSound has a strong research foundation and works closely with academic institutions and athletic populations. We are continually testing and refining the effectiveness of nutritional strategies for pre- during- and post-competition/training status.


See also our article ‘What is Glycogen?’

1. Onywera, V.O., Kiplamai, F.K., Tuitoek, P.J., Boit, M.K., and Y.P. Pitsiladis. Food and macronutrient intake of elite Kenyan distance runners. Int. J. Sport. Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 14: 709-719, 2004.
2. San Millán I, González-Haro C, Hill J. Indirect Assessment of Glycogen Status in Competitive Athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011; 43: S660
3. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM., Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance., J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Mar;116(3):501-28.

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