A low-carb diet for athletes?

27. September 2017

Eating less carbohydrates is deemed to be a miracle cure in the battle against excess pounds. However, athletes need carbohydrates if they want to achieve something.

The trend towards a low-carb diet has become universally accepted in everyday life and there are also some studies on this in the field of sports. Most of them, however, advise athletes against being too frugal with carbohydrates because the disadvantages are greater than the promised benefit. Carbohydrates are and remain the muscle fuel of choice for athletes!

Most endurance athletes are only able to exploit their potential with a sufficient intake of carbohydrates. In sporting performances that last up to three hours, carbohydrates are a primary energy source. Accordingly, classic, carbohydrate-rich diets are recommended and not high-fat and low-carb diets. And also in the case of longer events, general recommendations continue to promote a diet rich in carbohydrates for both the training and the competition.

But the following also applies: amateur athletes who train around two to three times a week don’t need any more carbohydrates on a day to day basis than people who don’t exercise and should therefore restrict their intake on the days when they are not training. A reduced carbohydrate intake of around three grams per kilogram of body weight makes a lot of sense when it comes to maintaining the health of those who are hardly ever active. To put it in concrete terms: in future, you should preferably eat the usual portion of grain products, such as bread, pasta, or rice that you eat at main meals only twice a day, and occasionally this can even be reduced to just once a day without experiencing any problems. 

Endurance athletes who are focused on their performance, however, need a sufficient amount of carbohydrates. The specific quantity is thereby based on the extent to which they train each day, however, for many everyday situations, this lies at 6-8 grams per kilogram of body weight. During highly intensive phases of training and directly before a competition, they should increase the quantity somewhat, and in quieter phases, reduce it accordingly.

Prior to a competition, carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, potatoes, or rice are excellent sources of carbohydrates, as are low-fat sweets (gummy bears, ice cream) as well as sweet drinks and sports drinks.