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Article Summary: Dietary Carbohydrate and The Endurance Athlete: Contemporary Perspectives

Original article: Wallis, G.A., & Podlogar, T. (2022). Dietary carbohydrate and the endurance athlete: Contemporary perspectives. Sports Science Exchange. 35 (231), p 1-6.

Summary written by: Madelyn Trefzger & Kaitlyn Pscodna

Carbohydrate and The Endurance Athlete

Specific to the endurance athlete, this article summarizes carbohydrate needs before, during, and after exercise to optimize performance.

Endurance athletes are familiar with the practice of carbohydrate or glycogen loading before exercise. For training lasting more than 90 minutes, studies have found this method may optimize carbohydrate availability. This typically consists of 10-12 g/kg of carbohydrate per day for the 36-48 hours before competition. For exercise lasting less than 90 minutes, this method does not show significant improvements in performance yet carbohydrate intake per day should still be ~7-12 g/kg to ensure adequacy of energy stores.

For fueling before endurance training, general guidelines recommend 1-4 g/kg body mass 1-4 hours prior to training, respectively. So for example, this would be 55 grams of carbohydrate 1 hour before training for a person weighing 120#. Recent studies have found a carbohydrate rich breakfast PLUS the inclusion of a fructose (think fruit!) source rather than glucose sources alone can improve endurance capacity. The combination of fructose and glucose sources target the storage capacities of both liver and muscle glycogen to provide fuel for intense training. 

The ingestion of carbohydrates during exercise >60 minutes is practiced to both maintain blood glucose levels and provide a fuel source that spares the body’s existing muscle glycogen stores. The recommendation is typically 30-90 grams per hour, with the amount increasing as exercise duration increases. For example, 30g/hr is usually appropriate for events less than 2 hours. This then increases to 60g/hour after the 2 hr mark and 90 g/hr after the 3 hr mark. For more moderate doses (ie. 30-60 g/hr), most carbohydrate sources can be used (glucose, glucose-fructose, or glucose-galactose mixtures, etc). At higher doses (60-90 g/hr), glucose-fructose mixtures are preferred as this helps with intestinal absorption and minimizes GI issues.

Following exercise, carbohydrate needs are dependent upon glycogen depletion. It is recommended that endurance athletes consume moderate to high glycemic index carbohydrates at 1-1.2 g/kg body mass per hour for 4 hours after training. Again, glucose-fructose mixed options have shown benefits in liver glycogen synthesis compared to glucose-only sources. Consuming carbohydrates as quickly as possible after exercise should be the top priority. 

Glucose-fructose sources may include:

Motts Fruit Snacks - cheapest option


Individual needs must also be considered. Though recommendations are helpful in determining the appropriate foods and quantities to fuel exercise, it is important to work with a sports dietitian to find the balance that works for you and is based on the specific schedule and training load you work with. 

Interested in reading the full article? We highly recommend checking out the FREE resources at Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Find it here:

Wallis, G.A., & Podlogar, T. (2022). Dietary carbohydrate and the endurance athlete: Contemporary perspectives. Sports Science Exchange. 35 (231), p 1-6.

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