Are carbohydrates bad for my sports performance?

Most of the time carbohydrates are associated with bad health or as unhealthy nutrients. However, carbohydrates are crucial for every human being; in athletes, carbohydrates play several crucial roles (1,2). Do you know that?

Keep your eyes on this article, because herein we will answer the query “Are carbohydrates bad for my sports performance?”; we will explore the role of carbs in sports performance, what types of carbs can you eat, what a carb load is, and how much carbs you should eat a day.

Are carbohydrates bad for my sports performance?

No, actually carbohydrates are very important for the performance of athletes. Besides being the first energy source, it can help to prevent fatigue, even preventing the loss of muscle mass (2).

What is the role of carbohydrates in sports performance?

Carbohydrates form glycogen, which is the main energy source of your body. Hence, carbohydrates play a crucial role in sports performance because they will be the most abundant and available energy source when starting exercise (3).

Do different types of carbs have the same effect on my performance?

Yes, the different types of carbohydrates will have different effects on performance. There are two broad categories of carbohydrates, the high glycemic index and the low glycemic index (3).

High glycemic index carbs are usually simple sugars like glucose or sucrose. High glycemic index carbs are rapidly absorbed by your body, so they will be available really fast for your muscles (3).

You can find high  glycemic index carbs in sugar, fruits like bananas or mango, and honey (3).

Low glycemic index carbs are more complex molecules that need to be digested before being available. Low glycemic index carbs are in foods like whole-grains, bread, oatmeal (3).

Because high glycemic index carbs are more available, they are the best carbs source for an energy boost during your competition. On the other hand, low glycemic index carbs can be useful after training and several hours prior to training (3).

What is Carb Loading?

Carb loading is a nutrition strategy to increase the maximum capacity of glycogen storage in your body. There are several protocols for Carb loading, but it starts with a reduction in carbs intake to 10 % of your total energy intake a few weeks before a competition

7 days before the competition, the intake of carbs is increased up to 75 % of your total energy intake. The complete Carb loading protocol can increase up to 25 % of your glycogen storage, which could improve your performance in a competition.

How much carbohydrates do you need as an athlete?

Your needs of carbohydrates will depend on the discipline you do, overall, athletes need between 5 and 9 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of weight. Thus, if you weigh 80 kg, you should consume between 400 and 720 g of carbs a day (3).

Remember that you should incorporate both high glycemic index and low glycemic index carbs. Foods like whole-grains and fruits provide you with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals useful to increase your health and performance (3).

You should consult a specialist in sports nutrition to define your needs. He or she  will be able to adjust all your requirements of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. 

What is the role of carbohydrates in muscle growth?

Carbs are also good for muscle growth because when you consume carbs after a workout, the carbs are used to replenish your glycogen storage (5).

Therefore, your body can use all amino acids for repairing your muscle instead of converting them to energy and refueling your glycogen (5).

Moreover, consumption of carbs induce the secretion of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that promotes the growth of tissues, including muscle (5).

Hence, carbs are not only important for your performance as an energy source, instead, carbs are also good for your muscle development (5).


In this article, we answered the query “Are carbohydrates bad for my sports performance?”; we explored the role of carbs in sports performance, what types of carbs can you eat, what a carb load is, and how much carbs you should eat a day.


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