The Vital Role of Proteins and Carbohydrates in Athletic Training

The Necessity of Carbohydrates in Athletic Performance

The role of carbohydrates in our diet, especially for athletes, is a subject of much debate. While some argue that carbohydrates are not essential since there are no diseases directly caused by glucose deficiency, this view overlooks crucial aspects of our body's energy needs. Our central nervous system requires approximately 120 grams of glucose daily, with an inactive body needing about 7-8 grams per hour. The liver can create glucose through a process called neoglucogenesis, using amino acids and other substances, but this isn't a limitless process. While the body can burn fats and proteins for energy, it's not as efficient as using glucose, and a complete lack of glucose can lead to harmful build-ups of ketone bodies, indicating that a diet devoid of carbohydrates is not ideal for health or athletic performance.

For athletes, carbohydrates are particularly important. During intense training, muscle glycogen – the stored form of glucose – is a primary energy source. When glycogen stores are depleted, athletes experience fatigue, which is why low-carb diets are generally not advisable for those engaged in sports, especially endurance activities. Keeping blood glucose levels stable is essential, and for this, a balanced intake of carbohydrates is crucial. This ensures that athletes can maintain high levels of performance and endurance, underlining the importance of carbohydrates in an athlete's diet.

Glycogen Replenishment without Carbohydrates

A commonly asked question in the fitness community is whether it's possible to restore glycogen stores without consuming carbohydrates. The answer is complex and depends on various factors.

After an anaerobic lactate training session, approximately 20% of the lactate produced is used for the resynthesis of glucose and subsequently glycogen. However, the conversion from lactate to glycogen is around 1 mmol of glucose for every 2 mmol of lactate. Given this low conversion rate, glycogen resynthesis in a post-workout fasting state is minimal and wouldn't support a second training session or maintain a higher training volume.

Glycogen Consumption during Resistance Training

The higher the intensity of the training, the more glycogen the body uses, though the impact is less pronounced compared to aerobic exercises. To balance this, if the intensity is raised, the volume of the training should be reduced, and vice versa.

It's crucial to understand that glycogen stores don't replenish instantly. As a result, it's not enough to consume carbohydrates only before the workout. Eating too many carbs just before training can actually spike insulin levels, potentially causing fatigue and concentration difficulties.

A more effective approach is to distribute carbohydrate intake, consuming about 40% in the two meals before the workout and the remaining 60% immediately after the workout. This strategy ensures a steady supply of energy and aids in efficient glycogen replenishment post-training.


The role of proteins and carbohydrates in athletic training is fundamental. Understanding the body's glucose requirements and the process of glycogen resynthesis can help athletes optimize their diet and training regimen for peak performance. The key is to strike a balance, ensuring that the body receives the necessary nutrients without overloading it.

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