As we know, carbohydrates drive physical performance and having low carbohydrate availability, i.e. low amount of carbs in the diet and carbs stored within the muscle, liver and blood can be detrimental to performance.
In footballers, carb intake on game day is very much dependent on two main factors:
1) Intensity of the game.
2) Number of minutes played.
Therefore, playing under high carb availability is going to be vital. For instance, a super nice study by Rodriguez-Giustiniani et al (2018) looked at how a 12% carb solution would work when taken before KO and at half time on skill performance, sprint speed and high intensity running capacity.
N.B. the placebo was an electrolyte drink without carbs…therefore any improvements in performance would solely be down to carb intake and not hydration.
When elite academy soccer players drank a 12% solution (30g carbs + 250mL water) 15 mins pre KO and again at half time, they were better able to maintain passing accuracy in both the early and latter stages of the simulated football game.
Interestingly, there wasn’t a significant difference on passing speed in their dominant foot. However, there was a significant improvement in passing speed in their non-dominant foot from 75-mins onwards.
It’d been suggested that playing with your non-dominant foot is less automated, and requires greater activation of the nervous system to support skill level. It’s proposed that fatigue compromises the CNS and therefore, the addition of carbohydrates was able to counteract this.
Additionally, high intensity running capacity was improved during a maximal running test to failure upon completion of their 90 minute simulated match.
Knowing this, if players were to implement this/or a similar strategy to ensure they played with higher carbohydrate availability; they would be able to maintain skill and physical capacity towards the end of a game where fatigue and exhaustion is at its highest.
In return, they’d be able to better influence the outcome of a game in the dying minutes where most goals are typically conceded.