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Carbohydrates Fuel The Body

Carbohydrates are the bodies fuel source.  Maintaining optimal carbohydrate intake is important to remain healthy, especially for athletes.

Carbohydrates are stored in the mutumblr_mb31p60GwT1r43dlbo1_500scles and liver as glycogen for use during maximal bursts of effort.  The higher the initial glycogen level, the longer an athlete can exercise at a given intensity level.  Athletes who did not refuel appropriately can experience gradual glycogen depletion that will ultimately decrease endurance and performance.

Carbohydrate needs for 1 hour of training are approximately 2.7-3 g per pound of body weight.  For 2 hours, 3.6 g per pound of body weight is recommended.  For high endurance athletes who train up to 4 hours at a time, 5.4-5.9 g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight are needed.

There are different types of carbohydrates that provide different levels of nutritional value.  The glycemic index rates the effects of carbohydrate rich foods and fluids on blood sugar (glucose) and insulin levels.  Low glycemic index foods provide sustained availability of carbohydrates during exercise, where as high glycemic index foods are metabolized very quickly providing a “sugar rush” with a subsequent drop in available glucose.  Without available glucose, there is also a drop in energy and performance.


Here is how carbohydrates are rated according to the gylcemic index:

High Glycemic Index               Medium Glycemic Index                 Low Glycemic Index

Glucose                                                   Bagels                                                   Fructose

Honey                                                     Crackers                                                Rice

Sports drinks                                       High-fiber cereal                                   Whole-wheat pasta

White bread                                          Wheat bread                                               Nuts

White potatoes                                    Sweet potatoes                                             Dried beans

Corn chips                                             Rice chips                                                Apples



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Category: Nutrition

Christopher Burton, M.D.

About the Author ()

Christopher Burton, M.D. is a physician, speaker, coach and trainer, practicing in Pensacola, FL. He specialized in Physiatry - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), which is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions - particularly those of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems - that may produce temporary or permanent impairment of function. In addition to his practice, he actively lectures on health, nutrition and exercise for healthcare groups, colleges, schools and travels internationally discussing treatment and rehabilitation of athletes.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Burton you can view his personal website at:

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