Carbs - It's all about the timing

Carbs - it's not how much, it's WHEN!

The importance of carbohydrates for any endurance runner is well known but knowing when the best time is to consume your carbs is something many runners are often unsure of. Is it best to have a massive bowl of porridge on the morning of a race / training run, or is it best to snack on carbo gels once you get going?

Although the answer very much depends on how far you are running, as a general rule the best time to consume a carbohydrate rich meal is in the first 2-3 hours after a training run.

Why timing is key

For endurance runners, in the first few hours post run your body secretes a hormone called glycogenase, which helps to maximise the body’s ability to absorb and store away any carbohydrate-rich foods you consume.

This ensures that your liver and muscles are well replenished with glycogen (stored carbohydrate) leaving you fuelled up and ready to go for your next training session.

In 2-3 hour window after intense training, your body will absorb any carbohydrates you eat like a sponge and refuel you far more effectively than if you wait until the next day.

Of course the type of carbohydrate you choose eat is very much up to you, but it has been shown that carbohydrates which are high on the glycaemic index, such as potatoes, white rice and pasta, bread, bananas etc are absorbed far quicker and replenish your expended glycogen stores that much more effectively.

How much Carbohydrate?

Although recommendations on the exact recommended quantities will vary from expert to expert and of course how many miles of training you are doing per day / week, the general consensus is that you should be looking to consume somewhere in the region of:

1g of carbohydrate per Kg of bodyweight straight after training.

So, if you weigh 80 kg, you should be looking to consume 80g of carbohydrate in the first 2 hours after training.

For maximum nutrient replenishment, try and get some protein down you too.

So, get looking at those food labels of your favourite carbs and make sure you’re eating enough to refuel for your next training run.

For more information on carbohydrates and running, take a look at out “Running and Carbohydrates” post on out blog.

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