Daily Carbohydrate Needs For Athletes

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How Many Carbohydrates Should I Eat?

An excessive carbohydrate diet without the right amount of exercise would lead to increase in body fat since the excess carbohydrate would be converted fat. The daily intake of carbohydrates should vary according to the intensity and duration of activity1. Therefore, a recreational athlete who trains 1 hour/day should not eat as many carbohydrates per day as a professional cyclist or high-performance triathlete.

The following chart provides some guidance to daily carbohydrate intake2.

Exercise Level Exercise Intensity and Time Carbohydrate Targets
Light Low intensity / Skill based 3-5 g/kg BW
Moderate Moderate intensity (~1hr/day) 5-7 g/kg BW
High Competitive Athlete (Moderate-High intensity of 3-4 hrs/day) 6-10 g/kg BW
Very High Professional/Elite Athlete (Moderate-High intensity of > 4hrs/day) 8-12 g/kg BW

Intake Strategies

Light and Moderate Intensities

The timing of daily carb intake may be manipulated to promote its availability for a specific session by consuming carbs before or during the session, or during recovery from a previous session.

High Intensities

As long as total fuel needs are provided, the pattern of intake may simply be guided by convenience and individual choice.

Very High Intensities

Athletes should choose nutrient-rich carbohydrate sources to allow overall nutrient needs to be met.

The important take home message

Optimal carbohydrate intake levels have now been established. MuscleSound enables you to monitor the effect of this intake on muscle glycogen levels rapidly, comfortably and conveniently. Read more about the importance of nutrition here.

References:

  • San Millán, I. The Importance of Carbohydrates and Glycogen for Athletes. Training Peaks: http://bit.ly/1Myfmrc, 2013.
  • 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. http://bit.ly/1VEYbXZ