Many people ask if it`s advisable or not the use of carbohydrate during practice. It all depends on the length and intensity of training and the type and concentration of the carbohydrate used. A few thought before we talk more about it;
The concentration and the time it takes to absorb matters. Remember, if it`s too concentrated (above blood concentration) and rapidly absorbed, chances are it might cause water not to be absorbed as efficiently (even help the dehydration process) as water moves from less to more concentrated gradients. We talked about it earlier at another post (intra workout carbohydrate concentration and dehydration, bloating, GI Distress). For more information, click here.
One other aspect is workout intensity. The higher the intensity, the more we will use carbohydrates as our energy source.
The body usually can`t use much more than 60g of carbohydrate per hour (of a single type, rapid absorption carb). By mixing different types (with different absorption rates we can go a bit higher). So as a general guideline;
For exercises less than an hour, at low intensity; Usually there is no need to take any type of carbohydrate.
For high intensity workouts lasting from 40-90 min; Performance will benefit from carbo intake. As long as it stays within 60g an hour, the type of carbohydrate doesn`t seem to be a problem.
Training up to 2 hours at low to medium intensity; The athlete will also benefit from the carbohydrate intake. As practice goes on for a longer time it`s advisable to mix in different types of carbohydrates (remember, not in high concentrations if it`s rapidly absorbed). For workouts lasting about 1-2 hours about 30g per hour is usually sufficient. As practice gets more intense, even up to 50-60g per hour. Very important thing to remember when choosing the type of carb.
Remember to avoid any type of carb you might have intolerance (as an example, one might want to avoid maltodextrin if intolerant to corn) and always pay attention to it`s concentration.
Even through is more common to take solid foods to practice at running and triathlon long workouts, it can also be done (should be done) in sports such as swimming. For example; One could alternate the use of gels (concentration varies among manufacturers) and drinks with a sweet potato (cooked, peeled) at, let say, at the middle of a swim practice.
When talking about runners and triathletes, for example, It`s very common not just to use sweet potato and yam but also include options like little quantities of white bread with very little of ricotta, for example. For a few recipes you could use at long workouts (snacks), click here. There`s also another blog post about it in the blog section.
The type and amount o carbo used will be dictated by the athlete`s preferences, type of practice, among other aspects. It`s important to remember it should not have high fat, fiber and protein content so the carbohydrate delivery to the muscles won`t be too delayed.
If you are training for a long event always use in practice what you intend to use in competition. It`s more crucial as the carbohydrate intake gets higher.