Carbs Needed During Intense Training

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Carbs Help Athletes Better During Intense Training

If you ask most lifters, what’s the most important part of muscle recuperation for intense training, they will immediately say it’s protein, or glutamine, or some other nutritional supplement, but sleep is the most important recuperative aspect of training. Sleep is considered to be the “gold standard” post-exercise recovery procedure for athletes. During sleep, muscles are regenerated and during sleep, there is an increase in growth hormone that has significant effects on protein synthesis and repair.

If you have ever seen a bodybuilder on an extreme diet getting ready for a show, you will notice that he is sleeping more often.  Sleep is an essential aspect of recovery and fatigue management. Disturbed sleep is often reported as both a contributor and symptom of increased physical strain on the body.

If your training intensely, you need to refuel your body with the right amount of protein and carbohydrates. It’s been well established that carbohydrate feeding before and during exercise can provide a substrate for muscle and brain during exercise and can delay muscle fatigue and enhance performance. It’s been well established that during intense training, sleep disturbances can occur especially during periods of calorie restriction.

Few studies have investigated the effects of exercise training on sleep physiology in well-trained athletes. Researcher’s examined changes in sleep markers, mood state and exercise performance in well-trained cyclists undergoing short-term intensified training and carbohydrate nutritional intervention.

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Mood disturbance increased during intensified training and was greater in the moderate carbohydrate diet than the high carbohydrate diet. The high carbohydrate nutritional intervention reduced some, but not all of the detrimental effects of intense training.

Thirteen highly-trained male cyclists participated in two 9-day periods of increased training:

  • A high carbohydrate nutritional intervention. The high -carbohydrate group received 24 grams of carbohydrate pre-exercise.   During exercise, participants a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution per hour of exercise; containing 60 grams. Following exercise, participants were provided with recovery nutrition.  The recovery beverage contained 14 grams of carbohydrate and 17 grams of protein.
  • moderate carbohydrate nutritional intervention before, during and after training sessions.

Sleep and mood state questionnaires were completed daily. At the end of the study, percentage sleep time fell during intensified training despite an increase in time in bed. Sleep efficiency or the quality of sleep decreased during intensified training. Furthermore, there was an increase in the number of wake bouts throughout the night and overall a more fragmented sleep period. In addition, the cyclists experienced significant disruptions to mood state, reporting increased tension, anger, fatigue, confusion, depression and increased feelings and symptoms of stress.

Despite intensified training having a detrimental effect across a range of sleep parameters, the only difference between conditions observed was significantly longer actual sleep time in moderate carbohydrate group compared with high carbohydrate group. It was also observed that during the days 5–6 of intensive training, heart rate was greater in the moderate carbohydrate group than the high carbohydrate group. This could indicate the lower muscle glycogen levels were resulting in a strained physiological reaction. Mood disturbance increased during intensified training and was greater in the moderate carbohydrate diet than the high carbohydrate diet. The high carbohydrate nutritional intervention reduced some, but not all of the detrimental effects of intense training.

This study is also a reminder to all coaches of the need to build ample time for rest, including naps, into their athletes’ training plans. Also, the study reports increased mood disturbances occurring with intense training and inadequate carbohydrate intake.

Killer SC, Svendsen IS, Jeukendrup AE, Gleeson M. Evidence of disturbed sleep  and mood state in well-trained athletes during short-term intensified training with and without a high carbohydrate nutritional intervention. J Sports Sci. 2015 Sep 25:1-9.

Myllymaki, T., Kyrolainen, H., Savolainen, K., Hokka, L., Jakonen, R., Juuti, T., & Rusko, H. (2011). Effects of vigorous late-night exercise on sleep quality and cardiac autonomic activity. Journal of Sleep Research, 20 (1 Pt 2), 146–153.

Davenne, D. (2009). Sleep of athletes–problems and possible solutions. Biological Rhythm Research, 40 (1), 45–52.

Jeukendrup, A. (2014). A step towards personalized sports nutrition: Carbohydrate intake during exercise. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 44(SupplS1), 25–33.

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