Why is carbohydrate important?
Carbohydrate is a major fuel source for exercise, especially during long continuous or high-intensity bouts of exercise. It is stored in the muscle and liver as a substance called glycogen, however the amount of storage available is limited. This is why it is vital that you plan your carbohydrate intake around key training sessions and throughout the day according to the requirements of your sport.
How much do you need?
It depends on your sport. The main factors that influence how much carbohydrate you require include: frequency, duration and intensity of training/competition. Since the training sessions change from day to day, your carbohydrate intake should change to reflect this. On days where activity level is high, carbohydrate intake should be increased to match this. This will help to maximise the benefits you get from your training due to the promotion of recovery between sessions. Alternatively, on days where your activity level is low or on rest days, carbohydrate intake should be reduced to match this.
A good idea is to work out a plan with what food choices you should make to match each session, whether this is meal ideas or simple snacks for recovery. This will not only help you to keep track of your total carbohydrate needs but also ensure that the timing is right to suit the requirements of the session.
What is the glycaemic index?
Glycaemic Index (GI) is a ranking of how quickly carbohydrate foods raise blood sugar levels after ingestion. Foods that have a high GI ranking are digested and absorbed very quickly and blood sugar levels rise rapidly. Low GI foods on the other hand, are digested and absorbed much slower which results in a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels.
Is timing of carbohydrate important?
Yes. There are a number of factors that should be taken into account when planning your carbohydrate requirements before, during and after exercise including:
- Type, intensity and duration of exercise
- Frequency of exercise
- Body composition goals
- Environmental factors
- Performance goals
- Time between sessions for recovery
By ingesting carbohydrate before exercise will help to top up energy stores. This is especially important if your training or competition occurs first thing in the morning or if it will last longer than around 90 minutes.
It can also be beneficial to replace carbohydrate during prolonged exercise through the use of sports drinks/gels etc. Not only will this be beneficial to sports performance but you will also notice effects on muscles (reducing/delaying the decline during exercise) and the brain/central nervous system.
It is also very important to replace carbohydrate after exercise to aid recovery of glycogen sores. Successful sports performance is often reliant on the ability to recover following sessions to be able to do it all again in the next. If you don’t recover properly it can lead to fatigue and a reduction in the ability to train. This can have a knock on effect when it comes to competition especially if your event takes place over a number of days (e.g. tournaments)
To make sure you have the right amount of carbohydrate for your sport. Contact Craig to help achieve your goals