It’s been incredibly well established that consuming carbohydrates are fundamental for maximising performance at medium to higher intensities.
Whilst we think of daily carbohydrate intakes first, we also need to consider carbohydrate ingestion during exercise, specifically long(er) duration based endurance work.
There’s also been a plethora of research establishing how many grams of carbohydrates you need per hour of exercise to maintain physical performance.
However, there’s little research investigating how frequent you should consume these carbohydrates during exercise…until now.
Menzies et al (2020) examined how two different delivery methods of carbohydrates impact running performances – Time to exhaustion.
Both groups consumed 75g of carbohydrates over 75 minutes, however:
– Group A ‘drip fed’ carbs evenly throughout consuming 5g servings every 5 minutes (15 servings in total).
– Group B consumed zero carbohydrates until the 75 minute mark, and then consumed the entire 75g of carbs all at once (bolus).
Despite both groups consuming exactly the same amount of carbs during their running test, group A increased their time to exhaustion by ~9 minutes, which represents a 10% improvement in exercise capacity. Or in other words, a lot!
The runners who ‘drip fed’ carbs throughout saw a noticeably smaller decline in their muscle glycogen stores, and therefore had the ability to push harder for longer. Essentially, consuming carbs ‘spares’ muscle glycogen and therefore you have more of this finite substance to work at higher intensities.
In contrast, Group B left it too late and depleted their muscle glycogen stores to the extent where muscle contractibility becomes impaired…and subsequently power output and your ability to operate at higher intensities.
Once this happened, adding 75g of carbs didn’t restore glycogen to any real extent over the remainder of the test. Therefore you have to be very proactive with your fuelling and start implementing your nutrition strategy from the first few minutes.
For example, if you’re out running or cycling and your performance massively fades due to inadequate fuelling, it’s almost too late. So, if you’re hitting carb intakes of 30g, 60g, or 90g per hour, start implementing this strategy ASAP – don’t wait until your performance fades.
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