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Carbohydrates as the most important nutrient


Carbohydrates are our main energy source and the cornerstone of sports nutrition, especially during long, continuous efforts or intense activity. They are the fuel our body needs when exercising.

Carbs can be split up into fast carbs (sugar) and slow carbs (starch). Carbs are broken down in your intestines after a meal and released into the blood as blood sugar (blood glucose). The muscles take up this blood glucose, using it as a fuel source or storing it as glycogen.

Glycogen is your carbohydrate store and is stocked in the liver and muscles, but they only have limited storage capacity. This amount will only cover your needs during 90 to 120 minutes of exercise. This means you must constantly refuel your carbohydrate store if your training sessions or competitions last longer to prevent your body from experiencing a shortage. Perhaps you too have hit that wall during training? That instant in which your body switches from carbs (empty store) to fats. You’ll feel fatigue, reduced performance capacity, you’ll be less interested in training and your immune system’s resistance will be lower.

Good sources of carbohydrates include bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous, potatoes, breakfast cereals, oatmeal, (dried) fruit, jam, honey, sugar…

Your daily carbohydrate requirements depend on the duration and intensity of your sports activity. You will have to up your carb intake for intense training sessions and on competition days, to satisfy your body’s higher energy requirements for an optimum performance and to promote faster recovery.

EffortDaily carbohydrate requirement
< 1 hour a day3-5 g per kg body weight
± 1 hour a day5-7 g g per kg body weight
1 - 3 hours a day6-10 g g per kg body weight
4 - 5 hours a day8-12g per kg body weight

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