Carbohydrates for Endurance
Reviewed and Updated by ERB member Neal Henderson, MS CSCS – Sport Science Manager at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine
Intro: Energy for endurance exercise is fueled primarily by fats and carbohydrates, with carbohydrate utilization increasing as the intensity of the exercise increases. Thus, carbohydrates are crucial to competitive endurance exercise performance. In addition to food based carbohydrates, there are many different energy supplements marketed for sport, which are available in a variety of forms. These carbohydrate supplements are available as a result of demand based upon experimental and research based evidence, but understanding when your body needs carbohydrate in which amount depends on three key areas: capacity, conversion and type. Capacity: At rest, the human body typically has enough carbohydrates to fuel 3 hrs of exercise at a rate of 10-12 kcal/minute (600-700 kcal/hour) which includes blood, muscle, and liver glycogen stores totaling 1,520 to 2,020kcal. The conversion of carbohydrates to energy is highly efficient compared to fats and protein. Thus, carbohydrates are a great fuel source, but our storage capacity, even with training, is generally insufficient to meet the demands of competitive endurance sports.
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