Carbohydrate action in exercise

When you are exercising taking in 'fuel' in the way of easily digested food sources is essential.

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The science behind the mechanism of carbohydrate action in exercise is being increasingly researched.The impact of carbohydrate on exercise performance has been understood for years and a huge industry has grown up to provide a plethera of products to help. Whilst it is accepted that between 30-120 g of carbohydrate per hour is important when taking part in longterm exercise (1 hr +). Whatdo you do for shorter efforts?

Various studies have looked at what the impact may be in shorter duration (ie less than 1hr) and it is important to understand the science if you want to utilise carbohydrate as a fuel in efforts under 60 mins in duration. Jeukendrupobserved in a study (1) that during exercise of 1 hour duration, hypoglycaemia does not develop and blood glucose concentrations may even rise.It takes time before carbohydrate is absorbed, transported to and used by the muscle. Indeed, they calculated that only a small percentage of the carbohydrate ingested during these time trials was actually used as a fuel!

So for short (-1 hr) intense exercise what is happening?

Numerous studies looking at carbohydrate vs placebo as a fuelling strategy have observed that the carbohydrate arms of the studies have shown benefit on average 1 min over a 40 km laboratory controlled cycle time trial.

But how does this fit with the above?

Confused?! Well it appears that there are carbohydrate receptors in the mouth whichare activated when carbohydrate is in the mouth. This in turn activates areas of the brain that cause the muscles to respond. Basically the muscles respond because the brain tells them food is on the way!Chambers (2) used a placebo vs carbohydrate as a mouthwash and MRI scans noted that the reward centres in the brain responded differently (See Fig 1 below ).

Other researchers (3, 4, 5 ) have found that carbohydrate in the mouth producesbenefits with on average 2.5% improvementin effort when exercising.


So the 'take-home' message is that for efforts of between 30-60 mins digesting carbohydrate does not seem to be important.If you suffer from gastric distressafter taking carbohydrate gels/drinks when competing you can overcome it by spitting the fluid out. Others suck sweets or lollipops to trick the brain. So have a go!

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Posted in Business Post Date 10/15/2020






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