Carbohydrate contains 3.75kcal per g and is a major source of energy for the body during exercise. Carbohydrate is stored in the body in the liver and muscles. This allows it to be readily available when needed. For a normal person, the diet should consist of around 50% carbohydrate. For athletes, however a daily estimation is not sufficient as daily energy intake changes and does not always equal expenditure. Therefore, carbohydrate needs are put into g per kg of body weight and vary according to the exercise they are undertaking. (see table below)

Exercise Level

Carbohydrate Needs (g/kg)
 60 - 90min per day or low intensity 5 - 7
 90 - 120min per day 7 - 10
 Carbohydrate loading - endurance exercise 7 - 10
 6 - 8hrs per day (cycling tour for example) 10 - 12+
 Pre-exercise meal 1 - 4
 Carbohydrate intake during training 60g/hr
 Athletes with development needs (eg, teenager) additional 1 - 2

From the above table, athletes can then calculate, on average, how much carbohydrate they need per day. This can then be achieved by looking at food labels and estimating how much is being consumed.

Carbohydrate comes in many different forms, from high fibre complex carbohydrates such as fibre, to highly refined simple sugars such as sugar, sweets and most fizzy drinks. The glycemic index of a carbohydrate is a good indicator of the structure. The higher the glycemic index, the less complex the carbohydrate.

Glycemic index (GI) is a scale, for which carbohydrate is the test score of 100, which shows the rate of absorption of the nutrient into the bloodstream. The test food is then compared to that on a scale, producing a result like the following:

Examples of 50g of Carbohydrate:

5 Weetabix 3 medium scones 700ml sports drink
60g cornflakes 2 - 3 crumpets 1 - 2 sports bars
65g muesli 2 medium croissant 80g chocolate
350g porridge (cooked) 180g boiled rice 60g jelly babies
3 slices wholemeal bread 200g pasta/noodles 3 tablespoons honey
2 medium bread rolls 3 medium potatoes 440g (1 can) baked beans

GI Ranges:

Low GI Foods                                55 or less
Medium GI Foods                          56 - 69
High GI Foods                               70 or more
Reference Food - Glucose              100

Low GI Foods Medium GI Foods High GI Foods
Peanuts 14 Sultanas 56 Bagel 72
Cherries 22 Crisps 57 Crunchy Nut Cornflakes 72
Skimmed Milk 32 Apricots 57 Sultana Bran 73
Apple 38 Basmati Rice 58 Cornflakes 77
Noodles 46 Digestives 59 Rice Krispies 82
Baked Beans 48 Muesli Bar 61 Baked Potato 85
Fruit Loaf 54 Shredded Wheat 67 Scone 92
Special K 54 Light Rye Bread 68 French Baguette 95
Banana 55 Weetabix 69 Sports Drinks 95

Good Post Exercise Recovery Snacks:

Banana                           Dried Fruit                        Cereal Bars                       
Sports Drinks                  Milk Shakes                     Fruit Smoothie
Yoghurt Drinks                Fruit Scones                     Malt Loaf                             
Fresh Fruit                      Low Fat Yoghurt               Crackers


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