Nutrition journey – Part 1.2 Carbohydrate supplements

Carbohydrate supplements for performance

Overlooking carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are often overlooked when creating a meal plan. In this guide you will learn about carbohydrate supplements and how they can benefit your goals. Also how to use them for optimal results.

Carbohydrates have received somewhat bad reputation. Low carbohydrate and ketogenic diets have gained popularity. At the same time athletes tend to come equipped with masses of protein powders and carbohydrates tend to get left behind.

If used properly, carbohydrates have the ability to increase performance by :

  • Increased muscle mass
  • Increased endurance
  • Increased recovery

Carbohydrates and performance

To understand the effect that carbohydrates have on our body, we must first understand how our body uses different forms of energy.

To lift a weight if sprint a few meter, our bodies requires energy. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), is the only source of energy that can drive muscle to contract. Unfortunately our muscles only stores enough ATP, to support a few seconds of muscle contraction and thus the need to be replaced. If not replaced your set is over. However the body replace ATP by breaking down creatine phosphate (CP) which release energy fast for ATP replenishment. The body stores enough CP for 8-12 seconds of maximal effort, thereafter the body switch to glycolysis. Glycolysis is where stored glycogen (from carbohydrates) and blood sugar replace ATP stores to be used as energy.

Irrespective if your a bodybuilder, athlete or just trying to make improvements in your physique, your results depends on how well you perform during training sessions. Carbohydrates ensure that you can train to your maximum potential for maximum results. When training at high intensities for shorter durations its recommended to consume medium-high GI carbohydrates pre and post exercise. For rapid energy release. Where low intensity training, with a longer duration will benefit from low GI carbohydrates for gradual energy release.

Supplements vs. food

The answer on the question supplements or food is simple… BOTH.

Supplements and food both have advantages that make them ideal in certain situations. Supplements shine in the light of being faster digested, therefore rapid energy release and quick recovery. Where food is slower digestible releasing energy slower and prevent hunger cravings. Therefore a supplement or high GI food source is advisable pre exercise, where a supplement post exercise is crucial for maximum recovery as soon possible. Low GI food is excellent pre endurance exercise of <1 hour OR if the availability of consuming a supplement during the endurance event ( >1 hour) is possible.

Carbohydrate timing

When to have you carbohydrates are very important in some cases:

  • Breakfast: After an entire night of sleep (more or less 8hour fast), liver and muscle glycogen are depleted. It is important to eat whole wheat, low GI, complex carbohydrates to restore glycogen stores. Examples are fruit from the low GI list, oatmeal, high fibre cereal, whole wheat grains and low fat milk
  • 2-3 Hours pre training: Eating carbohydrates before training will allow glucose to be set free in your bloodstream by the time of training. This will be rapid fuel for a productive, intense workout. Low GI carbohydrates will be beneficial at this time. Whole grains like whole grain low GI bread and whole grain cereal.
  • Immediately before training, during and after exercise: These carbohydrates will not only fuel intense training but restock liver glycogen stores as they are depleted by heavy training. These carbohydrates will also serve to protect muscle tissue from breakdown by increasing insulin levels. High GI carbs will be beneficial, specifically in the form of supplements for rapid absorption.
  •  1-2 hours after training: Low GI carbohydrates is very important at this stage to keep blood sugar levels stable.

Carbohydrates are most definitely not considered as one of the most cutting edge supplement, however is is one of the most effective in some situations.

However it is important to distinguish if your goals fall within this situation:nutrient-timing-table_r4-01



Argon & Schoenfeld, 2013




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