Carbohydrates and the Athlete

Carbohydrates and the Athlete pic

Carbohydrates and the Athlete
Image: sportsmedicine.about.com

As a student athlete at Steubenville High School, Cody Saltsman won a number of awards and received media attention in his hometown newspaper. Now focused on rebuilding his performance after surgery, Cody Saltsman concentrates on rebuilding his body through diet and exercise.

Carbohydrates stand out as a key element of any athlete’s diet. According to the United States Olympic Committee, low levels of carbohydrates can reduce an athlete’s performance level and lead to premature fatigue, whereas the building of carbohydrate stores has been proven to increase performance. This correlation stems from the vital role that carbohydrates play in providing energy to muscle cells during exercise.

When the body takes in carbohydrates, the digestive system converts them into glucose. The circulatory system then sends that glucose throughout the body to fuel cell processes, and the leftover glucose travels to the muscle and liver cells for transformation into glycogen. During exercise, the body converts glycogen back into glucose to provide muscles with energy.

The harder an athlete trains, therefore, the more carbohydrates he or she needs. The body can only store between 300 and 400 grams of glycogen at any given time, so a regular intake of carbohydrates is crucial. Experts recommend consuming extra carbohydrates in preparation for lengthy workout sessions to build glycogen, while also striving for an intake of approximately 30 to 60 grams per hour during an extended training session or competition.