Let’s talk about Carbohydrates and Performance!

In today’s realm of sports, Protein often is the most talked about macronutrient due to its importance for building and maintaining muscle mass for athletes. Although, protein intake is extremely important, carbohydrates can make or break performance.

Carbohydrates (glycogen) is the primary source of energy for working muscles and the brain during moderate to high intensity sport and gives athletes the extra fuel that they need to sustain their performance throughout the game. For athletes in sports such as volleyball, or football that require quick short burst of repeated high intensity movements over a long period of time, it is vital to give the body an adequate amount of carbohydrates to fuel and sustain performance. Carbohydrates such as, whole grain pasta, fruit, vegetables, oats, and low-fat dairy are great options to have. A continuous lack of carbohydrates in an athlete’s diet can lead to the body’s inability to utilize its proper energy storages. This may, in turn, decrease performance when it matters most.

Tournament Fueling

It’s finally gameday! Excitement and nerves are at an all-time high, and for some athletes this is also means their appetite is low. They’ve either experience stomach cramps or trouble processing solid foods during their competition. For these athlete’s, drinking a shake for breakfast would be a great option. Shakes high in carbohydrates (ex. fruit), moderate protein and low fats, are easily digestible within 2-3 hours before competition.

In between matches/games, athletes should try to replenish their bodies with carbohydrate nutrient dense meals and lean sources of protein. Examples of these types of meals would be: sandwiches (whole wheat bread), banana and peanut butter, protein bites, apples, trail mix, a BodyArmor Lyte sports drink. Just to name a few.

Recommended Amounts

The amount of carbohydrates needed will depend on the intensity and duration of the activity performed. Below, are recommendations for daily carbohydrate consumption.


Type/Intensity/Duration of exercise Amount of Carbohydrate (CHO)
Low-intensity; skill based or strength/resistance exercise 3-5 grams of CHO per kilogram of body weight
Moderate intensity endurance exercise for <1 hr per day 5-7 grams of CHO per kilogram of body weight
Moderate-to-high intensity endurance exercise for 1-3 hr per day 6-10 grams of CHO per kilogram of body weight
Moderate-to-high intensity endurance exercise for > 3 hr per day 8-12 grams of CHO per kilogram of body weight

**Body weight in lbs/2.2 = Approximate body weight in kilograms


[1] Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Position of the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, American College of Sports Medicine and the Dieticians of Canada. Med Sci Sports Excerc. 2015; 48:543-568.

2 Burke LM, Hawley JA, Wong SH, Jeukendrup AE. Carbohydrates for training and competition. J Sports Sci. 2011; 29(Suppl 1): S17-27.


*Disclaimer: We are not registered dietitians and can not prescribe meal plans. Please consult with a registered dietitian for more information on nutrition and individualized plans.