Carbohydrates for endurance athletes

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Why endurance athletes need carbohydrates the whole day

Your body needs energy and that energy comes from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates is our most important source of energy. You can even say that they are the fuel for an athlete’s body. That is the reason why they are the basis of every sports nutrition.


Why do athletes need carbohydrates?

Like we said before, carbohydrates are our most important source of energy, especially during long and intense efforts.

When you have too little carbohydrates in your body, your sporting capacities will decrease. The body cannot take energy from the carbohydrates so it will use the proteins instead. You can feel the consequences quickly. You will feel tired, have a decreased performance capacity, have less energy to start training and have a reduced immunity resistance.

Also our brain needs carbohydrates in the form of glucose to have enough energy. People who eat too less of them, lack the necessary glucose to have energy. As a consequence, they feel drowsy and tired.

One small portion after sporting, supplements the used carbohydrates s the body can recover faster of the fatigue. You will also feel more fit the next day for a new training.


How many carbohydrate do we need?

In a competition where the endurance is very important, the calories are major. Therefor it is important to get enough of these to be able to accomplish the performance. It is important to have enough carbohydrates before and during the competition. The right food helps also to shorten the period of rehabilitation, which Is very important for a multi-day event. The use of carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks during the competition is often essential for endurance athletes to accomplish performance for a long time. 

One problem is that our body have a low storage capacity for carbohydrates. So it is very important to plan the intake in function of the training sessions and to adapt the daily intake to the needs.

The need for carbohydrates depends from the energy need of every athlete. Next to this, that energy need depends of some factors: the training- and competition scheme, the frequency of trainings, the duration and the intensity of the sport activity, etc. These energy need depends as well from day to day, so you have to adapt the intake of carbohydrates from day to day.


How do I make sure I have enough carbohydrates?

Top athletes need to supplement their fuel in the morning. The reasons for that is that their reserves are diminished during the night. Training and participating competitions require a lot of the body. Starting the day with a healthy meal, balanced with carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals are a good basis for good performances.

On heavy training- or competition days you can increase the intake of carbohydrates. By doing so you can satisfy the higher energy requirements to perform optimally and to recover faster. During non-training days you can decrease the intake.

After a competition the body needs he right ration of carbohydrates and proteins to recover. Recovery works on 2 parts and requires carbohydrates to augment to reserves of glycogen. Next to this, it also needs proteins to rebuild the damages muscles.

Extra supplementation with foodstuff can also be useful if the food needs of top athletes are so extreme there cannot be satisfied with the food itself. It is very important to keep in mind that supplementation is a complement to a normal healthy diet. Every top athlete have to obtain the majority of the calories and foodstuff from food, in particular from healthy sources of healthy carbohydrates- whole grains, fruit and vegetables- and proteins from lean meat, poultry, fish, lean dairy products and plant based sources.