How to keep your carbohydrate intake under control
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Good carbohydrate nutrition: keep your intake in control

Want to keep your carb intake under control without feeling depleted of energy? Andrew Hamilton advises...

Studies show that diets containing relatively low levels of carbohydrate are more effective for weight loss than those containing high levels of carbohydrate, especially refined carbs (sugars). The problem is that as a triathlete undergoing relatively high training volumes, you need plenty of carbohydrate to fuel that training, otherwise you’ll end up feeling tired and your training quality will suffer. 

Some studies have shown that muscles can be fully replenished with glycogen by consuming 7-10g of carb per kilo of bodyweight following training (e.g. 490-700g of carb for a 70kg athlete) and this has led to a general recommendation among some sports scientists. 

At lower training volumes, however, this blanket recommendation can easily lead to weight gain. Even at the lower end of the 7-10g range, 490g of carbohydrate (for a 70kg athlete) contains nearly 2,000 calories. By the time you’ve consumed the required 100g or protein or so and some essential dietary fat, your daily calorie intake is going to be pushing 3,000kcals.

A better way is to use calorie burn – easily calculated using a good heart rate monitor – and consume approximately 1g of carbohydrate for every 4 calories of expended energy.

Regarding carb type: the gentle energy release of slow-releasing carbs found in brown pasta, beans and oats are less likely to result in blood sugar spikes, which can lead to weight gain. These should form the mainstay of your diet. But because your muscles benefit from rapid replenishment during the post-exercise ‘window of opportunity’, some quick-release carbs (e.g. sugars in carb drinks) are particularly effective when
taken straight after training.


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To be clear, does this suggest ADDING 1g of carb for every 4cals burned to normal daily intake, or for this to represent one's TOTAL daily carb intake?

rob chalmers

I'm struggling with the maths,

if you do a long ride at race pace and your HRM say you've torched 1600cals, thats 400g of carbs....  

brown rice has 23g of carbs/100g mass. 

you'd need to eat and extra 1.7kg of brown rice that day!!!!

if you do a quick run and your HRM say you've burnt 400cals, thats 100g of carbs....  

WH pasta has 46.9g of carbs/100g mass. 

you'd need to eat an additional 213g(uncoooked - more when cooked) of WH pasta just for that short run? 

that seems a lot - maybe that's where I'm going wrong though. 







Greg, my reading is 1g per 4 Calories burned is additional to your basal metabolic requirement rather than your average daily intake

Rob, I'm perplexed also. The (male) body can store up to around 500g of carbs as glycogen of which 400g would be stored in muscles. As the brain is fuelled by glycogen only and fat cannot be burned without some carbohydrate present you cannot use up all those 500g. Your body simply won't let you. Also glycogen stored in muscles that are not made to work don't give it up to those that do.

As a pure guestimate you may deplete by 300g (anyone have a better figure) in training. So my recent bike ride of 100km +1900m ascent burned 2600Calories or 650g of glycogen. Don't think so. Don't think I'm going to eat 1.4kg of dry weight pasta after such a ride. I reality I was burning quite a lot of fat which is one of the training objectives of long rides.

Maybe the 1g for every 4Calories is the modern 220 minus your age

Zhou Nutrition

Great posting about the nutrition. I loved your discussion. Actually, all of the people should be eat best food for build-up good health. Am i right?

Jon Wickett

Hello, this last 12 months I have been experimenting with seriously cutting my carb intake. I read quite a lot about this before attempting it and was a little bit sceptical - everyone knows triathletes need carbs right? Anyhow by 'adapting' my body to burn fat I found I was able to eat less than 100g of carbs most days and still train - last week 20 hours. Each of us (even the really lean ones) has a large useful store of body fat which can can provide energy in addition to glycogen. I found that by eating more veg, natural healthy fat and moderate protein several things happened: I can ride for hours without gels, I never get 'hangry', my stubborn roll of middle age belly fat disappeared but my weight is very stable. To get technical insulin can prevent your body releasing leptin (the hormone which burns fat) so if you eat too many carbs you could be inhibiting your ability to use more naturally available fuel... food for thought maybe?

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