How to Use Carbs as a Super Fuel For Performance

How to Use Carbs as a Super Fuel For Performance

If you’ve suffered from late day fatigue, mid workout lethargy, mood swings, and  feeling like you can’t drag yourself out of bed the next day pay close attention.  Because the way your eating, both before and after your training is likely to blame for  the lack of energy and slow recovery.  

There are certain macronutrients specifically carbohydrates and protein that are  essential to athletes and high activity people. Plus these macronutrients, crucial to  performance and recovery, have an optimal time to be used or your missing the  biggest benefits.

Now - there are many people whom paint carbohydrates as a food to be avoided at all  costs. But if you’re an athlete or exercise often a low carb or keto diet may be killing  your performance. For a deeper dive into that topic check out this video.  

Check out what happened to me when I tried to go hard without carbs. So a little over  a year ago I was testing the no carb theory on performance with several of our  athletes. And one day I headed to the motocross track and did three 25 min motos.  During these motos my output was approximately 80% VO2Max. I headed home had a  high protein high fat recovery meal. Hydrated with electrolytes and water and headed  to the mountain bike trails. Our team did a 15 mile MTB ride and roughly 145-155 BPM  HR. After the ride I was tired but it wasn’t anything too crazy. For dinner - again I had  a high protein, high fat meal, mostly consisting of vegetables and lean meats. 

I woke up the next day and I felt like I was hit by a train. I had a headache, my  muscle ached, I was exhausted, it sucked. The entire day I laid around on the couch  like I had the flu, but I didn’t. What I did have was a depletion of critical macro nutrients. Specifically - I lacked carbohydrates.  

Now - there are some benefits to low carb and keto diets, they just don’t seem to be  beneficial for high intensity athletes. Again you can check out this video for the pro’s  con’s, unknowns and the Cell Sauce Athlete test for keto.  

So what the heck happened to my body because I deprived it of carbohydrates? Let’s  explore the science. And then you’ll see exactly when and how much carbohydrates  you need to perform optimally.  

Carbohydrates are a Massive Energy Source 

Carbohydrates is the primary energy source for the human body. The amount of  carbs your body will utilize for energy is based on how well trained you are and the  intensity of your exercise. Check out this chart.

The better trained you are the better your body will utilize fat for energy. As  you increase exercise intensity, increased HR, increased output etc, your body will  begin to utilize more carbohydrates for energy.  

Unfortunately, your body has limited carbohydrate stores to utilize for energy.  Here’s how the body works, you eat carbohydrates, your body converts them into  glucose. Some of the glucose is used for energy, some stays in the blood stream and some is stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen.  

The downfall, once you deplete your glycogen stores you hit the wall. You get  tired quicker, face fatigue, exercise feels more difficult, you may experience 

headaches, mood swings, brain fog and a general feeling of low energy that makes  your performance suffer.  

Start Your Exercise on a Full Tank  

If you workout, race or compete in the morning it’s critical your body has a full  tank of energy before you start. While you sleep, your body will burn some of the  glycogen stored in your liver. If you don’t replace that lost glycogen when you wake  up, you will not perform optimally. To see more about what to eat in the morning or  before exercise check out this video.   

Timing is Key for Recovery 

According to this study and multiple others there is a key window for glycogen  synthesis (recovery for carbohydrates).  

Researchers have discovered during the first 30-60 minutes post exercise 

there’s a phase of rapid muscle glycogen synthesis. After this window glycogen resynthesis has shown to drop a staggering 50-65%.

The Amount and Timing are Critical for Max Recovery! 

Check this out - depending on the amount of time you have to recover  determines how often you need to replenish carbohydrates. If you have long recovery  period more than 24 hours you can replenish carbohydrates within 30-60 minutes of  completing exercise and than every 2 hours until you have a meal. But if you have  short recovery period say less than 8 hours your carb timing should change.  

In this study they reveal when carbohydrate feeding occurs within 15–30 min  intervals, the muscle glycogen resynthesis rate has been found to be approximately 40%  higher than when supplementing every 2 hours [33,34,35,97,113].  

So you know it’s critical for recovery to ingest carbohydrates immediately after  exercise and deeding on your recovery time either keep replenishing carbs every  couple hours or every 15-30 minutes.  

But how much carbohydrates should you consume? 

This is more of a grey area. The amount of carbohydrates you should consume  varies on several factors. Researchers have discovered it can depend on your glycogen  storage before exercise, the amount and intensity of exercise, and the amount of  glycogen remaining in your body. But here’s what the science has to say.  

This study analyzed runners doing multiple runs in a day to determine how

different amounts of carbohydrate intakes post exercise affected their recovery of  

muscle glycogen. Here’s what they concluded - Increasing carbohydrate intake during  short-term recovery accelerates glycogen repletion in previously exercised muscles  and thus improves the capacity for repeated exercise. The availability of skeletal  muscle glycogen is therefore an important factor in the restoration of endurance  capacity because fatigue during repeated exercise is associated with a critically low  absolute muscle glycogen concentration. 

Okay so in this case more is better but how much more and what does that  mean for you?

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This studies focus was to determine the optimal amount of carbohydrates  during recovery. Eight subjects cycled for 2 h on three separate occasions to deplete  their muscle glycogen stores. “Immediately and 2 h after exercise they consumed  either 0 (P), 1.5 (L), or 3.0 g glucose/kg body wt.” After blood tests researcher  discovered during post exercise recovery the group who took no carbohydrates, their  blood glucose and insulin remained below pre exercise state, while the 1.5 gram and  3 gram group had above pre exercise levels. But here’s what they also found, recovery  glycogen levels did not differ between the 1.5gram group and the 3 gram group.  

This goes to show that more is not always better. In fact - there has been a  number of studies trying to determine the best amount of carbohydrates to take post  exercise. Researches have tested everything from 0 to 3 grams per kg of body weight  and here’s what they’ve found out.

“It was elegantly demonstrated that carbohydrate ingestion at a rate of 1.2 g·kg BM−1·h −1 during post-exercise recovery resulted in a 150% greater glycogen synthetic response  (from 17 to 45 mmol·kg dm−1·h−1) relative to a lower dose of 0.8 g·kg BM−1·h−1 [35].  Because the ingestion of 1.6 g·kg BM−1·h−1 of carbohydrate seemingly does not further  stimulate muscle glycogen resynthesis above that of 1.2 g·kg BM−1·h−1 [36]. 1.2 grams of  carbohydrates per kg of body weight may be considered as the optimal amount to maximize  muscle glycogen repletion.” 

The Final Numbers to Maximize Recovery  

Here’s the skinny to maximize your recovery. First - determine the amount of  time you have to recover. If it’s more than 24 hours and you’ve had an intense  workout (you’ve depleted your glycogen) then you should be consuming 1.2 grams of  carbohydrates immediately after exercise and then every 2 hours until your next  meal. If you have less than 8 hours to recover you should consume 1.2 grams of  carbohydrates per kg of body weight immediately after exercise and than every 15-30  minutes until your next meal.  

Oh One More Thing!  

In this study it demonstrates liquid carbohydrates are better for blood glucose  and insulin recovery than solid carbohydrates.

So if your looking for fast efficient carbohydrates to recover check out Carb  Sauce and Hydration Sauce.