Carbs Boost Performance

Dublin Marathon 2012We’ve all heard to carbo load before a big race. Eat pasta they say. Now a study proves carbs are even more important than fats.

Researchers at Australian Catholic University’s Mary Mackillop Institute for Health Research decided to test the performance of carbs related to running performance by blocking the body’s use of fat.

The study, published in Journal of Applied Physiology, included competitive, male runners. Researchers had them run on a treadmill until they reached exhaustion at a pace of 95 percent of their best half-marathon time. All ate a calorie-free or carbohydrate-heavy meal before and during the run, as well as took nicotinic acid to prevent them from using their fat stores.

Results showed that blocking the body’s ability to use fat did not affect the distance before runners became exhausted. It did also not affect use of carbs. Almost 100 percent of the total energy used came from carbohydrates whether the runners ate or not.


“Competitive runners should focus on dietary strategies that will increase carbohydrate availability before and during competition to optimize race performance in events lasting up to 90 minutes in duration,” according to Jill Leckey, who served as lead author on this study.

Leckey believes the study can apply to even those who are not competitive runners. It’s the runner’s maximum heart rate or oxygen uptake that determines usage of carbohydrates during exercise and not the pace you are running.

What can you do?

For morning runners:
Start out with toast and almond butter or oatmeal with steel cut oats and a drizzle of honey.

For mid-day runners:
Try eating a banana or a slice of toast before your run.

For night-time runners:
Eat around 4 p.m. so your body has digested the carbs properly. A sandwich of lean protein between oat bread would work.

 If you need calories for a longer run, try taking gels that are full of carbs and no fat for energy to make it through the workout.