Posted by Eimear Finnegan on 16th Mar 2021

Carbohydrates For Performance

Carbohydrates for Performance

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and should equate to around 50% of total daily calorie intake for the average person. This may vary with different athletes and sports for example endurance athletes require a very high carbohydrate diet to fuel lengthy training sessions and competitions.

Carbohydrates are divided into three categories:

Simple sugars:

  • Monosaccharides
    • Glucose
    • Fructose
    • Galactose
  • Disaccharides
    • Maltose
    • Lactose
    • Sucrose
  • Polysaccharides
    • Starch
    • Glycogen
    • Cellulose

Simple sugars are broken down quickly by the body whereas complex carbohydrates are slow releasing. This means they release energy slower than simple sugars, which keeps you fuller AND your energy stores higher for longer.


Maple Syrup
Soft drinks







There are many benefits of carbohydrates for not only performance but overall health:

  • Improve and maintain digestive health- carbohydrates are a source of fibre which aids digestion and slow gastric emptying of food.
  • Promote satiety- keep you feeling fuller for longer
  • Fuel high intensity activity during match play:
    • a.Sprinting
    • b.Jumping
    • c.Tackling
  • Protein sparing effect- high carbohydrate diet allows protein to be used solely for the growth & repair of muscle.
  • A high carbohydrate diet has also been found to reduce certain athlete’s rate of perceived exertion (RPE). This is a scale used to measure how difficult one perceives an activity to be.

Match Day

Correct fuelling on match/training day is essential for optimal performance. Carbohydrate loading is not necessary for events lasting less than 90-minutes so it is recommended that athletes consume 7-12g of carbs per kg of body weight per day (12g/kg/day).


It is recommended that players consume a high complex carb meal 2-3 hours before the event to increase endurance capacity.

A low glycaemic index carbohydrate source is suggested as to avoid any stomach disturbances.

Pre-Match Meal

100g pasta 150g mixed veg and ½ cup pasta sauce - 80g Carbohydrate
60g oats with 250ml milk and mixed berries - 80g Carbohydrate

A light high carb snack should be consumed 30-60 minutes prior to event, avoid protein and fats:

Pre-Match Snack

1 banana with 3 rice cakes -40g Carbs
1 regular bagel with 1 tbsp jam - 56g Carbs


Immediately After a match or training players should ingest a high carb meal combined with a protein source to promote the repair of muscle.

A moderate to high glycaemic index carb source could be beneficial to replenish energy stores quickly.

Post-Match Snack

200g beans on 2 slices of toast -60g Carbs - 18g Protein
50g chicken in wholemeal wrap -35g Carbs19g Protein

It is recommended that players then consume 1.2g of carbs per kg body weight per hour (1.2g/kg/hr) after. E.g. a 70kg athlete should try to ingest 84g of carbs per hour after the event to fully replenish energy stores.