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Breaking the limits of sports performance: is 120 g/h of carbohydrates the key?

Our friends Crown Sport Nutrition bring us back an interesting article about the new Findings on the consumption of carbohydrates in endurance sports.

When we perform physical exercise, our body obtains energy from different substrates, including fats and carbohydrates, stored in the form of glycogen in our body.

The contribution of these substrates varies according to the intensity of the exercise, being the carbohydrates the main source of energy in high intensity efforts.

Therefore, in these cases, depletion of glycogen stores can limit performance. Hence, athletes consume foods rich in carbohydrates during competitions, in order to provide the body with the necessary energy for these efforts and preserve your glycogen stores.

Traditional recommendations for carbohydrate consumption

The classical guides recommended consume about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercise, based on the theory that the transporters used by the muscle cell to absorb carbohydrates had a maximum limit (even lower for slowly oxidized carbohydrates, such as fructose or galactose).

However, later studies showed that by using carbohydrates that mix different transporters to enter the cell (such as glucose and fructose), one could increase the amount of carbohydrates of carbon absorbed.

Research led by the renowned nutritionist Asker Jeukendrup has shown that a mixture of glucose and fructose in very high doses (between 108 and 144 g/h) allows a increased oxidation of carbohydrates, which translates to greater performance benefits, not only compared to a placebo, but also compared to the same amount of carbohydrates from glucose alone

Given these discoveries, during the last decade it has been recommended consume up to 90 g/h of carbohydrates, especially in long-term tests (more than 2 hours), since a higher intake might not provide additional benefits in the oxidation of these carbohydrates, since there is an additional limit on intestinal absorption.

New findings in the consumption of carbohydrates

However, recent research led by Spanish nutritionists, such as Aritz Urdampilleta and Aitor Viribay, have observed that trail runners consuming 120 g/h of carbohydrates experience a lower perceived burden, less neuromuscular fatigue and lower muscle damage values ​​after a race compared to those runners who have consumed 60 g/h or 90 g/h, that is, the usual doses consumed by most runners.

Although these studies have limitations, open up new perspectives on what was known so far about carbohydrates, demonstrating that, in people accustomed to a high consumption of carbohydrates, the tolerance limits are much higher than previously believed.

How much carbohydrate should you consume?

The intake of 120 g/h of carbohydrates seems to be feasible., at least after proper stomach training, and could push the limits of performance.

In another recent study, a group of 9 cyclists received an intake of 120 g/h of carbohydrates of carbon in the form of drinks, gels or jelly during a 3 hour test at moderate intensity, showing that the participants they were able to oxidize a large part of those hydrates of carbon without experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms.

It is important to note that the relationship between carbohydrate intake and performance may not be linear, meaning that the benefits of increasing intake from 30 to 60 g/h may be greater than those of increasing from 90 to 120 g/h.

Also, more large-scale studies are still needed to confirm if increasing carbohydrate intake too much (up to 120 g/h) leads to significant improvements in performance and prevents depletion of glycogen stores.

However, the existing evidence to date suggests that With proper stomach training, very high doses of carbohydrates can be tolerated and oxidized., which could provide additional performance benefits.

Carbohydrate consumption in endurance sports: limits and perspectives

Science is advancing in overcoming the limits known up to now in terms of human performance.

Consuming a high amount of carbohydrates (60 g/h in efforts of up to 2 hours, and more in efforts of longer duration) is beneficial for athletic performance.

The most recent studies show that the consumption of up to 120 g/h of carbohydrates may be feasible and provide additional performance benefits, as long as proper stomach training is performed.

 Although there are still limitations and large-scale studies are lacking, these new findings open up new perspectives and show that the limits of tolerance of athletes are higher than previously thought.


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