Daily Carbohydrate Needs for Athletes

The daily intake of Carbohydrates will vary according to the intensity and duration of activity. 1 An excessive carbohydrate diet without the right amount of exercise would lead to increase in body fat since the excess carbohydrate would be converted fat. Therefore a recreational athlete who trains 1 hour/day should not eat as many carbohydrates per day as a professional cyclist or high-performance triathlete.

The following chart provides some guidance to daily carbohydrate intake 2.

Exercise Level Exercise Intensity and Time Carbohydrate Targets
Light Low intensity / Skill based 3-5 gram/kg bodyweight
Moderate Moderate intensity (~1hr/day) 5-7 gram/kg bodyweight
High Competitive Athlete (Moderate-High intensity of 3-4 hrs/day) 6-10 gram/kg bodyweight
Very High Professional/Elite Athlete (Moderate-High intensity of > 4hrs/day) 8-12 gram/kg bodyweight

Intake Strategies

Light and Moderate Intensities

Timing of daily carb intake may be manipulated to promote availability for a specific session by consuming carbs before or during the session, or during recovery from a previous session.

High Intensities

As long as total fuel needs are provided, the pattern of intake may simply be guided by convenience and individual choice

Very High Intensities

Athletes should choose nutrient-rich carbohydrate sources to allow overall nutrient needs to be met

The important take home message

Optimal carbohydrate intake levels have now been established. MuscleSound enables you to monitor the effect of this intake on muscle glycogen levels rapidly, comfortably and conveniently.

  1. San Millán, I. The Importance of Carbohydrates and Glycogen for Athletes. Training Peaks: http://bit.ly/1Myfmrc, 2013.
  2. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM., Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance., J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Mar;116(3):501-28. http://bit.ly/1VEYbXZ

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