Carbohydrate and Intensity
By Shane Sweatt, Special Strength Development for All Sports, 2015

With increasing exercise intensity, the active muscle mass becomes progressively more dependent on carbohydrates as a source of energy. However, the oxidation of exogenous carbohydrates seems to remain constant at intensities of 50 percent to 60 percent VO2max or greater (Pirnay et al., 1982).

There are many studies that show female strength athletes do not deplete glycogen as fast and synthesize less glycogen than male strength athletes during resistance training. In these studies high carbohydrate diets are not considered optimal for the performance of female strength athletes. Not all athletes are the same. Laura Phelps-Sweatt has always required more carbohydrates in comparison to the other female strength athletes with whom I work, which includes multiple world-record holders. As a coach, pay attention to individual needs of athletes. Sometimes you will have to go outside of what is normal for them, making sure they log their food intake and performance. If you don’t, it could be costly for your athletes. Eventually, an athlete should be his own best coach ‑‑ it is his body. He knows exactly how he feels, so for strength-athletes, carbohydrates are necessary. Strength athletes in general just don’t need as many carbohydrates as endurance athletes.

High glycemic carbohydrates (sugars) commonly found in sports drinks and fruit cause the body to stimulate an insulin response from the pancreas, releasing insulin. Insulin counteracts cortisol and minimizes protein breakdown. This is why athletes use high glycemic carbs with their post-workout protein shakes. The combination of insulin and carbohydrate also increases glycogen storage in the muscle, which improves intensity and performance during training or competing. That’s why when an individual wakes, he wants to take in carbohydrates and fast digesting protein. The carbs help the body uptake the protein faster. A good example would be to eat a banana and oatmeal, so he has faster and slower acting carbs; this gives the insulin release for a fast protein uptake and sustained energy. If the body does not have any use for the glucose, it is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles as an energy reserve. The body can store about half a day’s supply of glycogen, and if the body has more glucose than it can use as energy or converts to glycogen for storage, the excess is converted to fat.