Supplements Made Simple - Carbohydrate

What is it - and does a runner need it?


Posted: 5 June 2000
by Liz Applegate

This is adapted from the book, Eat Smart, Play Hard, by RW USA Nutrition Editor Liz Applegate.

While they may not be found in the supplement aisle of your local supermarket or health food store, some sports products have introduced the idea of carbo-loading as a form of supplementation. If your body is not well-stocked with carbohydrate, you’re not going to exercise well. You need plenty of carbohydrate to replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles to fuel your workout, or your arms and legs will feel heavy and you won’t feel like working out for very long. But do you need to take a carbohydrate supplement such as the drink Gatorload? It depends.

Aim for 400 carbohydrate grams (1,600 calories) as a daily goal – more if you do high mileage or if you eat considerably more than 2,500 total calories a day. To figure out your daily average, keep track of your carbohydrate servings for 2 or 3 days in a row. You’ll know you’re on the right track if you come close to the following numbers each day.

  • 10 servings of grains (one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of cereal or pasta equals 1 serving)
  • 7 servings of fruit (one medium-size piece or 4 ounces of juice equals 1 serving)
  • 4 servings of vegetables (1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked equals 1 serving)
  • 2 to 3 servings of dairy (1 cup equals 1 serving)

My recommendation: If you don’t come close to the recommended amount of carbohydrate and you exercise for an hour or more at a time, consider drinking a carbohydrate-loaded sports drink before or after your workouts.


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