If you’ve suffered from late day fatigue, mid workout lethargy, mood swings, and feeling like you can’t drag yourself out of bed the next day pay close attention. Because the way your eating, both before and after your training is likely to blame for the lack of energy and slow recovery.
There are certain macronutrients specifically carbohydrates and protein that are essential to athletes and high activity people. Plus these macronutrients, crucial to performance and recovery, have an optimal time to be used or your missing the biggest benefits.
Now – there are many people whom paint carbohydrates as a food to be avoided at all costs. But if you’re an athlete or exercise often a low carb or keto diet may be killing your performance. For a deeper dive into that topic check out this video.
Check out what happened to me when I tried to go hard without carbs. So a little over a year ago I was testing the no carb theory on performance with several of our athletes. And one day I headed to the motocross track and did three 25 min motos. During these motos my output was approximately 80% VO2Max. I headed home had a high protein high fat recovery meal. Hydrated with electrolytes and water and headed to the mountain bike trails. Our team did a 15 mile MTB ride and roughly 145-155 BPM HR. After the ride I was tired but it wasn’t anything too crazy. For dinner – again I had a high protein, high fat meal, mostly consisting of vegetables and lean meats.
I woke up the next day and I felt like I was hit by a train. I had a headache, my muscle ached, I was exhausted, it sucked. The entire day I laid around on the couch like I had the flu, but I didn’t. What I did have was a depletion of critical macro nutrients. Specifically – I lacked carbohydrates.
Now – there are some benefits to low carb and keto diets, they just don’t seem to be beneficial for high intensity athletes. Again you can check out this video for the pro’s con’s, unknowns and the Cell Sauce Athlete test for keto.
So what the heck happened to my body because I deprived it of carbohydrates? Let’s explore the science. And then you’ll see exactly when and how much carbohydrates you need to perform optimally.
Carbohydrates are a Massive Energy Source
Carbohydrates is the primary energy source for the human body. The amount of carbs your body will utilize for energy is based on how well trained you are and the intensity of your exercise. Check out this chart.
The better trained you are the better your body will utilize fat for energy. As you increase exercise intensity, increased HR, increased output etc, your body will begin to utilize more carbohydrates for energy.
Unfortunately, your body has limited carbohydrate stores to utilize for energy. Here’s how the body works, you eat carbohydrates, your body converts them into glucose. Some of the glucose is used for energy, some stays in the blood stream and some is stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen.
The downfall, once you deplete your glycogen stores you hit the wall. You get tired quicker, face fatigue, exercise feels more difficult, you may experience
headaches, mood swings, brain fog and a general feeling of low energy that makes your performance suffer.
Start Your Exercise on a Full Tank
If you workout, race or compete in the morning it’s critical your body has a full tank of energy before you start. While you sleep, your body will burn some of the glycogen stored in your liver. If you don’t replace that lost glycogen when you wake up, you will not perform optimally. To see more about what to eat in the morning or before exercise check out this video.
Timing is Key for Recovery
According to this study and multiple others there is a key window for glycogen synthesis (recovery for carbohydrates).
Researchers have discovered during the first 30-60 minutes post exercise
The Amount and Timing are Critical for Max Recovery!
Check this out – depending on the amount of time you have to recover determines how often you need to replenish carbohydrates. If you have long recovery period more than 24 hours you can replenish carbohydrates within 30-60 minutes of completing exercise and than every 2 hours until you have a meal. But if you have short recovery period say less than 8 hours your carb timing should change.
In this study they reveal when carbohydrate feeding occurs within 15–30 min intervals, the muscle glycogen resynthesis rate has been found to be approximately 40% higher than when supplementing every 2 hours [33,34,35,97,113].
So you know it’s critical for recovery to ingest carbohydrates immediately after exercise and deeding on your recovery time either keep replenishing carbs every couple hours or every 15-30 minutes.
But how much carbohydrates should you consume?
This is more of a grey area. The amount of carbohydrates you should consume varies on several factors. Researchers have discovered it can depend on your glycogen storage before exercise, the amount and intensity of exercise, and the amount of glycogen remaining in your body. But here’s what the science has to say.
This study analyzed runners doing multiple runs in a day to determine how
different amounts of carbohydrate intakes post exercise affected their recovery of
muscle glycogen. Here’s what they concluded – Increasing carbohydrate intake during short-term recovery accelerates glycogen repletion in previously exercised muscles and thus improves the capacity for repeated exercise. The availability of skeletal muscle glycogen is therefore an important factor in the restoration of endurance capacity because fatigue during repeated exercise is associated with a critically low absolute muscle glycogen concentration.
Okay so in this case more is better but how much more and what does that mean for you?
Carb Sauce (Powder Complex Carbohydrate Drink)
This studies focus was to determine the optimal amount of carbohydrates during recovery. Eight subjects cycled for 2 h on three separate occasions to deplete their muscle glycogen stores. “Immediately and 2 h after exercise they consumed either 0 (P), 1.5 (L), or 3.0 g glucose/kg body wt.” After blood tests researcher discovered during post exercise recovery the group who took no carbohydrates, their blood glucose and insulin remained below pre exercise state, while the 1.5 gram and 3 gram group had above pre exercise levels. But here’s what they also found, recovery glycogen levels did not differ between the 1.5gram group and the 3 gram group.
This goes to show that more is not always better. In fact – there has been a number of studies trying to determine the best amount of carbohydrates to take post exercise. Researches have tested everything from 0 to 3 grams per kg of body weight and here’s what they’ve found out.
“It was elegantly demonstrated that carbohydrate ingestion at a rate of 1.2 g·kg BM−1·h −1 during post-exercise recovery resulted in a 150% greater glycogen synthetic response (from 17 to 45 mmol·kg dm−1·h−1) relative to a lower dose of 0.8 g·kg BM−1·h−1 . Because the ingestion of 1.6 g·kg BM−1·h−1 of carbohydrate seemingly does not further stimulate muscle glycogen resynthesis above that of 1.2 g·kg BM−1·h−1 . 1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight may be considered as the optimal amount to maximize muscle glycogen repletion.”
The Final Numbers to Maximize Recovery
Here’s the skinny to maximize your recovery. First – determine the amount of time you have to recover. If it’s more than 24 hours and you’ve had an intense workout (you’ve depleted your glycogen) then you should be consuming 1.2 grams of carbohydrates immediately after exercise and then every 2 hours until your next meal. If you have less than 8 hours to recover you should consume 1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight immediately after exercise and than every 15-30 minutes until your next meal.
Oh One More Thing!
In this study it demonstrates liquid carbohydrates are better for blood glucose and insulin recovery than solid carbohydrates.
So if your looking for fast efficient carbohydrates to recover check out Carb Sauce and Hydration Sauce.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852829/#B105-nutrients-10-00253 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5794245/