Athletes Diet: Intake of Carbohydrates for Training and Recovery

Carbohydrates are the backbone of sports nutrition. Endurance athletes around the world consume foods rich in carbohydrates to give them the energy to sustain their training over long periods. During CrossFit training, the muscles need fuel, and your brain needs the energy to maintain the focus throughout the training. In many types of sports, low carbohydrates intake is the major cause of fatigue and low performance.

crossfit workout

Carbohydrate Intake Patterns for Athletes

The carbohydrates needs of athletes are tied closely to their muscle fuel costs imposed by the training intensity. Since the training load changes from one day to the next and at different points in the careers of the athletes, the dietary intake of carbohydrates ought to change also in response to the rise and fall in muscle fuel needs. Instead of having a fixed carbohydrate intake target, you should fine tune it to fit your energy budget.

Athletes should also target days when they are training hard at high intensity to ensure they have adequate glycogen (muscle carbohydrates) store to fuel their training goals. One of the greatest suggestions to help you monitor your carbohydrate intake is to track your muscle fuel needs to include additional carbohydrate-rich foods in meals and snacks before or after a CrossFit workout. As the training needs increase, your carbohydrate intake should also increase proportionally.

carbohydrate food

Carbohydrates intake targets should be provided in grams relative to the body mass of the athlete instead of a percentage of the total energy intake.

The Training Load versus Carbohydrates Intake

As pointed above, your training load should determine your level of carbohydrates intake. A light training load characterized by skill-based or low-intensity activities should be supported by 3 to 5 grams of carbohydrates intake per kilogram of body mass. Moderate exercise programs lasting about an hour a day should be supported by 5 to 7 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body mass per day.

Endurance programs which include 3 to 5 hours per day of high-intensity training should be supported by 6 to 10 grams per kilogram of body mass per day. As for the very high training loads, the carbohydrates intake should be upped to 8 to 12 grams per kilogram of body mass to support the extreme commitment of high-intensity exercise.


Many athletes train with low carbohydrate availability particularly when they do their training in the morning without breakfast or when they engage in a long workout without access to sports drinks or foods. When the exercise intensity is low, this may not be a problem. However, when they train more than once every day in closely spaced sessions, CrossFit diet sufficient in carbohydrates is needed to enhance the speed of recovery.

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