24/06/2024

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Carbohydrate Guide For Athletes & Active People

Carbohydrate Guide For Athletes & Active People

Hello everyone!

Today’s post is all about helping athletes of any level, including the average very active person, determine their dietary carbohydrate needs.

I work with a significant number of people who fit this description across a number of demographics from teenagers and beyond.

Two common trends I regularly observe include:

A misunderstanding of the importance of carbohydrate for overall health and athletic performance

A measurable underconsumption of carbohydrate-rich food which is likely causing a decrease in performance

Naturally, I don’t love to see thatalthough I do love helping to fix it!

Which brings us to today’s article.

The research and and writing for this piece was led by my current writing intern Abby Webber who has already established herself as a proficient nutrition writing via her work on two previous pieces on insulin resistance.

Take it away Abby!

Carbohydrate Targets For Athletes & Active People

By Abby Webber 

Nutrition significantly impacts exercise performance and carbohydrate intake is key in managing the rigorous demands of exercise as it is the quickest and most immediate source of energy

Endurance exercise depends on the aerobic system, which needs an ample supply of oxygen and the availability of carbohydrates

Carbohydrate recommendations range from 3–10 g/kg of bodyweight depending on exercise duration and intensity.

The following carbohydrate guide outlines recommended daily carbohydrate intake for individuals engaged:

  • light
  • moderate
  • and high activity levels

The same person might experience all three days in a week, and you’ll also better understand what each means to you.

Values are based on a 70 kg body weight – (70kg x 2.2 = 154 lbs).

Please note these are not intended to be 100% complete meal plans, rather sample guides honing in on carbohydrate intake.

If you are looking for complete, customized nutrition guidance – reach out to Andy to discuss working together.

Light Activity: 4g/kg x 70kg = 280 g/d

Light activity is characterized by low intensity or skill-based training.

This physical activity level is relatively low and the daily carbohydrate intake is set at 280 grams.

The meal choices include complex carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato and vegetables.

These slow-digesting carbohydrates provide a sustained source of energy throughout the day.

Breakfast: 1 ½ cups greek yogurt (14g) with 2 sliced bananas (46g) and 2 tbsp honey (34g) , 2 slices multigrain toast (36g) with 4 tbsp peanut butter (12g)

Lunch: ½ cup cooked quinoa (20g) with chicken breast on bed of greens, medium baked sweet potato (26g) with 2 tbsp butter 

Snack: ½ cup chopped carrot (6g) and 5 celery sticks (6g) with ½ cup hummus (24g), 1 medium apple (14g)

Dinner: Salmon with ½ cup broccoli (6g), ½ cup cooked carrots (6g), and ½ cup brown rice (30g)

Moderate Activity: 6g/kg x 70kg = 420 g/d

Individuals engaging in a moderate level of physical activity, such as a one-hour daily exercise program, should consume around 420 grams of carbohydrates per day.

The meal recommendations for this activity level includes a variety of nutrient-dense carbohydrates, along with protein sources to aid in muscle recovery.

Breakfast: 2 slices multigrain toast (36g) with 1 avocado (13g) and poached egg, 1 cup cottage cheese (8g carbs) with 1 cup pineapple chunks (22g carbs)

Lunch: 1 cup brown rice (60g) with ½ cup black beans (20g), ½ cup corn (20g), 4 tbsp salsa (5g) and ½ cup sour cream (5g)

Snack: ½ cup dried mango (62g carbs), ½ cup cashews (22g carbs), and 3 rice cakes (25g)

Dinner: Chicken and veggie stir fry (2 cups) (24 g carbs) with 2 cups of brown rice noodles (100g)

High Activity: 8g/kg x 70kg = 560 g/d

For individuals engaging in high levels of physical activity, such as 1 to 3 hours of moderate to high-intensity exercise daily, the carbohydrate intake is increased to 560 grams.

This level of activity requires more energy, and meal ideas include complex carbs, lean protein sources and healthy fats to support energy production and muscle recovery.

Breakfast: 1 cup overnight oats (70g) with 3 tbsp chia seeds (15g), 2 tbsp flax seed (6g), 2 cups fresh blueberries (42g), and 3 tbsp almond butter (9g) 

Lunch: 2 Stuffed bell peppers (12g) with ground turkey and 2 cups brown rice (120g), 2 chopped and roasted white potatoes (50g)

Snack: Loaded sweet potato (26g) with ½ cup kidney beans (20g), and ½ cup sour cream (5g)

Dinner: 2 cups whole wheat pasta (85g) with 10 meatballs (30g),1 cup tomato sauce (20g), and 2 slices garlic bread (50g)

 It is important to note that these recommendations are general guidelines and can vary from person to person based individual factors and goals.

Athletes must ensure they consume the right amount of energy for their body weight and training intensity to support their health and optimize training results as inadequate carbohydrate intake can lead to elevated risk of fatigue, injury, hindered adaptation, and prolonged recovery periods.

Abby Webber

Was This Eye Opening?

Does today’s content have you concerned that you may be underfueling?

You aren’t alone.

It is a common phenomenon, but one that can be resolved with customized guidance from yours truly.

Reach out today via e-mail today to chat further about how I can help you optimize your nutrition and carbohydrate intake for sports performance.

PS: Great job Abby!!

Andy De Santis RD MPH