October 26, 2011 on 12:28 pm | In Nutrition Tips | No Comments
In the world we live in today there is an increasing talk about carbohydrates. The truth is that carbohydrates really are the endurance athlete’s best friend, without them we could not swim, bike or run with any bit of enjoyment or proficiency. Without carbohydrates, our capacity for endurance would just about disappear. So the question on everyone’s mind is how many carbohydrates do I need? To answer this we first need to understand what carbohydrates are and what they do in our bodies.
What is a Carbohydrate?
To the endurance athlete, carbohydrates are basically either glucose, fructose or some combination of the two (there are more types of carbohydrates, but for this we are only going to talk about those two). Carbohydrates can be linked together to form different types of sugars or chemical structures such as sucrose (glucose linked with fructose), also know as table sugar. Carbohydrates can also be linked together to form more complex molecules like Amylose or Amylopectin which is basically a long string of glucose molecules linked together and are commonly found in plants. Carbohydrates are found in foods like fruit, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, grains and sweets. Carbohydrates can be classified as either Simple, like in cookies and soda, or Complex, like in whole wheat bread or pasta.
How much do I need?
Now that you have the gist of what a carbohydrate is, we can discuss how much an endurance athlete needs. Typically an endurance athlete needs 50-65% of their diet from carbohydrates, with less than 10% of those carbohydrates coming from a simple form. Here is what I recommend:
Training time Carbohydrate grams/pound body weight
1 hour/day 2.7-3.2 g/lb
2 hours/day 3.6 g/lb
3 hours/day 4.5 g/lb
4 hours/day 5.4-5.9 g/lb
As an example, if I am a 180lb man and I am training 2 hours per day, 180lb x 3.6g/lb=648 grams of carbohydrates. I recommend splitting these up through each meal of the day, so for 5 meals that is 129g per meal. Since there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate, that is about 520 calories per meal from carbohydrates.
The beautiful human machine is complex and there is no owner’s manual, but hopefully this helps you understand how things work a little better. Now go out there, eat carbs and train hard!