The longer the competition or training duration to be completed, the more decisive the energy supply becomes. Even the best engine stops when the tank is empty! Here you get the most important tips and product recommendations for endurance competitions, as well as 10% discount on the recommended products with the discount code SPORTSPARADISE10.
Carbohydrates & Fat
Basically, the body has two main suppliers of energy: Carbohydrates and fats. While body fat still amounts to several kilograms even in the best-trained professional athletes and thus represents a high energy reserve, the storage capacity for carbohydrates is limited. These are temporarily stored as so-called "glycogen" in the muscles and liver. Studies show that for most athletes these maximum carbohydrate reserves in muscle and liver (glycogen stores) are in the range of about 500g. Each gram of glycogen represents approximately three times the amount of weight gain, as it can only be stored in the body with water retention.
Trained athletes can efficiently metabolize fatty acids for energy use in low intensity ranges. However, this becomes increasingly difficult at higher intensities. The higher the intensity, the greater the proportion of carbohydrates in the required energy demand. During peak exercise, the body burns carbohydrates almost exclusively because they can be converted into energy more easily than fatty acids and require less oxygen.
Limited energy absorption
Even with full glycogen stores, carbohydrates are exhausted after around 90min of competitive exercise, often earlier. In order to maintain performance, a targeted and needs-based carbohydrate supply is therefore crucial for activities over 90min. The limiting factor, however, is that carbohydrates cannot be ingested or metabolized in arbitrary quantities.
Depending on the type of sport and the physiological conditions of the athlete, it is assumed that the absorption capacity is usually between 60-90 g of carbohydrates per hour. This also depends to a large extent on the individual and situational tolerance, because the absolute metabolic rate of carbohydrates may well be higher at up to 120 g per hour. In cycling, for example, energy absorption and digestion are easier than in running, where the jolts make it more difficult to tolerate. Practical findings from elite sports suggest that the absorption capacity of carbohydrates can be trained under stress.
Sports drinks provide well tolerated carbohydrates, no chewing is necessary, which impedes breathing. Advantage: Easy handling, "all in one" (carbohydrates, electrolytes, liquid).
Gels provide quickly available carbohydrates, without chewing work and with low volume. Liquid can/must be supplied separately. Advantage: support the function of the gastrointestinal tract
Energy bars provide fast and also slow available carbohydrates. They are highly recommended for longer distances, especially at somewhat lower intensities. Advantage: Support the function of the gastrointestinal tract.
In practice, athletes mainly use drinks and gels for shorter endurance efforts, while for longer efforts (cycling, marathon, Ironman, etc.) the share of solid food is becoming more and more important.
For competition loads from 90min, an optimal carbohydrate intake is crucial for performance. However, the supply should be started beforehand. For optimal performance, we recommend doses of 60-80 g of carbohydrates per hour. Make sure you have a regular energy supply and also take your thirst into account. Sports drinks, gels and energy bars are proven sources of carbohydrates, which are often used in combination depending on duration, intensity and personal preferences. The higher the intensity and the longer the activity, the more crucial their stomach compatibility. The intended competition food and KH intake should be tested in advance during training and optimized where possible. Wherever carbohydrate reserves lead to a limitation of performance over time, fat metabolism (fat oxidation) should also be specifically trained.
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