Infinit Nutrition Canada - Premium Sport-Specific Nutrition

Monday, May 29, 2017

Do Carbohydrates Improve Your Exercise Performance?

Our Thoughts:

Carbohydrate intake for performance benefit is all about timing.

To support heavy endurance training loads - carbohydrates are are a great tool.

During your workout, carbs are good to prevent the complete depletion of glycogen and the subsequent reliance on fat only as an energy source.  Note, it's ok to use fat as energy, but it requires us to train and compete at a lower intensity.  

Post workout, it is imperative that you take in a recovery drink post workout. For strength-based athletes, a 2:1 carb to protein ratio is recommended to support muscle protein synthesis. For those training in an endurance based sport, metabolic conditioning, or have depleted glycogen levels, a 4:1 carb to protein ratio is ideal. Carbs, with the presence of protein, are necessary to support muscle protein synthesis. This will aid in the repair and growth of muscle at a quicker rate, as opposed to refuelling on solely a protein based drink. 

Carbs and simple carbs are good if they are used as a tool.  Generally, if we use carbs (simple carbs) during and post-workout, we can optimize our performance and recovery.

There is a great podcast that we've referenced in the past that covers Carbohydrate Availability & Training Adaptation. We encourage you to listen as it provides great information regarding carbohydrates and performance. 

Key notes from the podcast: 

Don't train low carb, don't train high carb, train smart carb. - periodization of carbs is most effective.

Carbohydrates and Weight Loss: Exercise alone and/or diet alone are strategies doomed to failure for weight loss. One of the main problems in today's society in regards to low carbohydrate diets is what actually is considered "low carb". Low carb is 25% of your energy or less coming from carbohydrates. The now popular low carb, high fat diets are promoting reduced intakes at much less than what "low carb" actually means. This raises the question: does a low carbohydrate approach drive the weight loss or is it adequate to have just high protein? Varying the carbohydrate content makes very little difference so long as you're energy restricted and as long as you're exercising. In the linked podcast a study is discussed where participants are put through a 16 week exercise diet; moderate energy restriction (carbohydrates), 3 sessions of aerobic training a week, 3 resistance training. On average, the participants lost 8kg of fat and had a slight increase of lean muscle mass. Ultimately, you can maintain muscle mass and lose fat mass providing the protein content is a little bit above the RDA. 

Of the 61 published studies on carbohydrates and performance, over 82% showed a significant performance benefit from using carbohydrates to fuel performance. 

Training in a low-glycogen state: Anytime you take carbohydrate or energy away from the muscle, you are putting metabolic stress on the muscle, encouraging it to work harder, challenging it to a greater degree. However, this doesn't always translate into a performance benefit. The problem with the train low methodology is that when we train low, which is generally during a morning session, our second session of the day goes down in intensity and power, on average 7-8%.