Today, we explore the carbohydrate need of an athlete looking to develop muscle strength and size.

As previously discussed, offsetting glycogen depletion is undoubtedly important for maintaining exercise performance. This however has been directed more towards endurance and team based sports.

For muscle strength and size, the magnitude of an athletes training stimulus is ultimately going to determine their level of adaptation.

(Train hard = ‘adequate’ stimulus = swole).

If an athlete generates too much fatigue, the overall intensity of the session drops which subsequently impacts the total amount of work done and their level of adaptation.

When performing any type of exercise, the muscle loses its force producing capabilities once glycogen stores become ~50% depleted (tank half empty).

Interestingly, previous research has shown that training to failure doesn’t reach this level of depletion, and therefore the need to offset depletion isn’t that important.

However, a fresh of the press study by Hokken et al (2021) tells us a different story.

In this study, 10 elite weightlifters were recruited to examine how depleted they’d become after doing a typical lower body session: 4×5 back squats, 4×5 deficit deadlifts and 4×12 Bulgarian split squats.

Pre and post lifting, the researchers took muscle biopsies to measure how glycogen depleting the training session was.

On face value, glycogen stores across both type I and type II muscle fibres dropped by 38% (not to the extent where muscle fatigue occurs). So, no alarm bells here.

Upon further examination, they saw that 48% of glycogen pools within the type II fibres were almost depleted. In other words, the tanks were emptied and surpassed the 50% mark where the muscle loses its ability to produce the same amount of force.

*Side note: Type I fibres are more oxidative in nature (less carb demanding) and type II fibres are more glycolytic (more carb demanding). Therefore, no surprise here since lifting weights is glycolytic in nature.

Long story short: If an athlete becomes overly depleted during a lifting session, this has implications in the muscles ability to sustain repetition quality and quantity throughout. And therefore generate a large(er) training stimulus for adaptation.

This highlights the importance of starting your sessions with high carbohydrate availability and perhaps warrants the needs of carbohydrates during to offset the decline in glycogen pools within the muscle.

To reiterate, #NoCarbohydrateDeficienciesHere

Whilst you’re here…If you’re an elite athlete and find this content interesting, but don’t quite know how to apply it to maximise your performance and take your athletic development to the next level, I can 100% help you through my Athlete Coaching Programme. Click the shiny orange button below to find out more.

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