Carbohydrates and Sports Gels in sport
There is much confusion in the media currently around Carbohydrates (CHO). They are given a bad rap which is incorrect and misleading. While we should all reduce the amount of simple CHO’s (sugars) in our diet, it is necessary to have complex CHO’s (grains and cereals) to fuel muscles and our brains. Did you know the brain can only use CHO’s as its energy source?
Do you need to CHO Load for sport?
Carbohydrate loading is a tactic used in training to maximise muscle glycogen (CHO) stores prior to endurance competition. Anyone exercising continuously at a moderate to high intensity for 90 minutes or longer is likely to benefit from carbohydrate loading. Therefore, for a 5 to 10km run it is essential that you have replenished your CHO stores, but it is not necessary to CHO load.
How much CHO and when?
Depending on the activity and the timing of your exercise, meals and snacks (including CHO’s) should be eaten 2-4 hours prior to the event. This will enable digestion of CHO’s and uptake by your muscle stores. For short distances there is no need to have a big pasta meal. The following are some examples of low fat, high CHO meals / snacks to have before the event. They are also good for recovery.
- Low fat yoghurt and fruit
- Wholegrain bread and a banana (either wrapped in the bread or mashed)
- Breakfast cereal and milk
- Fruit / Banana smoothie
- Toasted muffin and jam
Too nervous to eat solids
If you are not able to manage a solid meal or snack leading up to the event, liquid meals including Sustagen®, Up & Go® etc. are suitable.
Sport Gels and Goo’s (Gu)
Sports Gel and Goo’s are highly concentrated source of CHO’s (65-75g/100 ml) that is easily eaten and quickly digested. They are a more concentrated source of CHO’s compared to sports drinks. They come in a variety of flavours, consistencies, the type and amount of CHO, as well as the addition of other ingredients including caffeine and branch chain amino acids (BCAA). Like CHO loading, sports gel and goo’s are not needed for exercise less than 60-90mins. If you do decide to use them for endurance events remember to test them in your training first.
So while you are planning for and recovering from a 5 to 10km run, ensure you are eating well including CHO’s in your meals and snack (bread, breakfast cereals, grain, yoghurt and fruits), keep up your fluids and practise your eating and drinking plan before the day of the event.
Watch out for my next update on protein and muscle building.
Accredited Practising Dietitian Geelong
Sports Dietitian Geelong