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Home / Training / Five tips for triathletes interested in low-carb endurance training

Five tips for low-carb training

Boost your ability to conserve muscle glycogen on race day with these handy pointers

Triathlete training on low muscle glycogen levels

Heard about the endurance benefits of low-carb training and wondering if it’s for you? Andrew Hamilton explains what it involves, and offers some handy tips…

The ‘train low, race high’ theory seems to turn conventional wisdom on its head because it completely contradicts one of the golden rules of sports nutrition: that muscle glycogen depletion should be avoided at all costs. The theory says that although low muscle glycogen is known to blunt performance on the day of a race, when it comes to training adaptation, it might actually help boost endurance.

One reason is that low-carb training can help switch on certain genes in the muscle, which enable a greater proportion of energy to be derived from fat stores. This in turn has two potential benefits. Firstly, it helps endurance athletes such as triathletes to achieve lower levels of body fat and secondly, increased fat burning capacity helps conserve muscle glycogen during long races, thereby prolonging endurance.

With this in mind, check out our five pieces of advice to get the most from low-carb training sessions without overdoing it:

– Decrease your muscle glycogen levels by 30-35% by performing your chosen discipline at approximately 70% of your HRmax for 30-60mins, without consuming a carb supplement

– The next training session can either be performed immediately afterwards or following a fast of 1-3hrs. This should be in the same discipline and include some high-intensity work

– Taking a caffeine supplement (3mg/kg of your body weight) one hour before the second session will help improve your capacity to complete that session at the required intensity without succumbing to fatigue

– Low-glycogen training shouldn’t be used by beginners. Even experienced athletes should limit it to once/week

– Always come to the race start line with fully replenished glycogen stores

(Main image: Jonny Gawler)

For lots more performance advice head to our Training section

Profile image of Jamie Beach Jamie Beach Former digital editor


Jamie was 220 Triathlon's digital editor between 2013 and 2015.