#1. Less Is More
Although your G.I. tract has the capacity to absorb 45 to 50 g of carbohydrate per hour, keep in mind this is a rate – about a gram per minute. If you consume 45-50 grams in a few minutes you’ll be exceeding your GI capacity and lose much of the benefit. Consume your calories in smaller feedings every 3 to 5 minutes to ensure greater absorption and delivery of more energy to working muscles.
#2. All Carbohydrates Are Not The Same
Although complex carbohydrates have been shown to offer multiple advantages in terms of overall health, that is not the case during exercise. Carbohydrate fuel consumed during exercise should consist of high glycemic short acting sugars. These sugars are absorbed more rapidly and transported faster to muscles. Complex carbohydrates first have to be broken down to simple sugars. As a result, your muscles are forced to use glycogen stores which are limited. The goal of carbohydrate consumption during exercise is to spare your muscle glycogen stores. When glycogen stores are depleted you bonk or hit the wall.
#3. More Is More
Although simple sugars are the preferred fuel, a combination of simple sugars such as dextrose, fructose and sucrose is even more effective. The reason being is your body uses different transporter systems to move carbohydrate energy from the gut into the blood, where it is then carried to working muscles. A specific transporter is used for a specific sugar. For example, consuming a sports drink that only contains sucrose can overwhelm the sucrose transporter. The net result is your muscles receive less carbohydrate energy. In contrast, consumption of a sports drink that contains a combination of sucrose, dextrose and fructose activates multiple transporters resulting in more carbohydrate energy transported to muscles. And in fact researchers have shown carbohydrate consumption consisting of two more simple sugars translates into enhanced endurance.
#4. Don’t Forget Protein
Endurance activity extending over 45 minutes, results in increased use of protein for muscle energy. In fact during extended endurance activity, up to 20% of your muscle energy needs can come from muscle protein. Cannibalism of muscle protein for energy makes for a harder recovery after exercise. Consuming fuel that contains a combination of carbs and protein preferable in a 4 to 1 ratio, decreases muscle protein breakdown and sets the stage for a faster more complete recovery.