Friday, March 14, 2014

Finding Your Sweet Spot

During very intense and/or extended bouts of exercise, the availability of carbohydrate (carbs) to the exercising muscles and the central nervous system can be compromised by the fuel cost of the activity exceeding the skeletal muscles’ carbohydrate stores. In these cases, providing extra carbohydrate with foods and beverages can make the difference between a top notch performance or a disappointing one. Current carbohydrate recommendations for endurance athlete promote the high consumption of carbohydrate during exercise from 30 up to a high of 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise in an ultra-endurance situation where you may be working hard for more than 4 – 5 hours. Here are some ides of where to get 30+ grams of carbs: 4 dates 6 small boiled potatoes 4 Fig Newtons 1 granola bar 1 sports Gel 6 graham crackers 500 mL 6-7% carbs sport drink However the potential for gastro-intestinal distress and its effects on performance need to be considered. So how can you determine what your own gut can handle? You need to use your intensive training sessions to mimic the competitive event to determine your “sweet spot”, that is, the amount, type and mix of carbs that your gut can tolerate while meeting the energy needs of the exercising situation. Multiple sources of transportable carbohydrate rich foods and fluids are related to better performance, especially when needs are pushing 60 grams or more per hour. BEWARE…...some athletes may need 4-6 weeks for their gut to adapt to the higher levels of carbohydrate intake. To get started, take a look at the Nutrition Facts Table on the packages of foods and fluids that you currently use to see how much carbohydrate they supply – then do the math and figure out how much of which foods and fluids you are currently taking in when you train hard or compete. Some food and fluid options are in the table below:

Type of Training


Carbohydrate Needs


Timing of Use

Food & Fluid Options PER HOUR

Easy intensity cardio or high intensity weights

30 grams/hour


Split into two 30 minute intervals/hour

·       500 mL sport drink (6% carbohydrate)

·       Water + granola bar or 6 graham crackers

Moderate intensity, endurance training

60 grams/hour

Split into three 20 minute intervals/hour

·       Water + 2 sports gels

·       Water + 1 sports gel + 3 boiled potatoes

·       Water + 4 dates + 1 granola bar

·       500 mL sport drink + 1 sports gel

·       500 mL sports drink +  granola bar

Race pace, endurance training or competition (2-3+ hours)

90 grams/hour

Split into six 10 minute intervals/hour

·       Water + 3 sport gels

·       Water + 2 sports gels + 3 boiled potatoes

·       Water + 4 fig newtons + granola bar

·       500 mL sports drink +  4 fig newtons + sport gel


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