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"Should You Be Concerned About Your Carbohydrate Intake During Training?"

Gatorade and a Banana

Carbohydrates are a fantastic fuel source of exercise, but do you really need to take them in during a training session?

It’s a very common misconception that because we use carbohydrates as a fuel source for exercise we need to consume them “intra workout”.

The reality for most people though is quite different, our bodies store carbohydrates as glycogen in our liver and muscles and we have glucose circulating in blood. These stores are topped up as we eat throughout the day and can be accessed and used during exercise before we need to consider taking in additional fuel.

We do deplete this glycogen and it may need to be replenished throughout if training for extended periods, but for most people exercise is limited in time and intensity where carbohydrates may be considered a performance limiting factor.

Here’s a handy guide for what that means in practice.

Timing, intensity and performance goals are important in making a judgment but in general, for aerobic and endurance work (e.g.running/cycling/multi sport events):

30min-1hr - No carbs needed.*

1-2hrs - <30g/hr

2-3hrs - <30-60g/hr

Beyond 2.5hrs - <90g/hr

*If this is an intense performance focussed session, you might want to consider a carbohydrate mouth rinse prior to the session.

If you are doing resistance training it’s not likely you will need to take on additional carbohydrates to help performance, unless you are maybe training beyond 10 sets per muscle group, doing very long high volume sessions beyond 1.5-2hrs or starting your training in a fasted state.

It is worth bearing mind individual responses, physique and performance goals when judging whether you need carbohydrates during resistance work, but certainly the amounts will be no where near as high as what’s required for endurance training, aiming to have adequate carbs throughout the day and post workout will ensure you’re glycogen stores are recovered for training on subsequent days.

I can’t sit here and talk about carbohydrates and not mention why the type of carbohydrate is also important. A full explanation warrants an article on its own, but briefly, going for a mixed carbohydrate source containing glucose and fructose is a good general policy. This will ensure your digestive system can take up the carbohydrate optimally and minimise digestive discomfort. Fruits are often a good starting point (think banana’s), as are certain sweets like jelly babies, but there are many commercially available sports drinks and bars that typically have favourable amounts of both. Ultimately it's down to what you prefer and what sits best with you.

So to cap this off, most every day exercisers probably don’t need intra training carbohydrate. If you are training for endurance over along distance or multiple events or competing athlete maximising performance then you may benefit from the additional carbs.

If you found this article useful and want to learn more, or are interested in having in have a tailored nutrition program to complement your training or competition, get in touch via my website, or email me at


Asker E. Jeukendrup (2011) Nutrition for endurance sports: Marathon, triathlon, and road cycling, Journal of Sports Sciences, 29:sup1, S91-S99, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2011.610348

Haff GG, Lehmkuhl MJ, McCoy LB, Stone MH. Carbohydrate supplementation and resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Feb;17(1):187-96. doi: 10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0187:csart>;2. PMID: 12580676.

Henselmans M, Bjørnsen T, Hedderman R, Vårvik FT. The Effect of Carbohydrate Intake on Strength and Resistance Training Performance: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2022; 14(4):856.

Burke LM, Hawley JA, Wong SH, Jeukendrup AE. Carbohydrates for training and competition. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S17-27. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.585473. Epub 2011 Jun 9. PMID: 21660838.


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