A Revolução dos Carboidratos e a Evolução do Esporte

The Carbohydrate Revolution and the Evolution of Sport

The Carbohydrate Revolution and the Evolution of Sport

Sports performance is constantly evolving. Every year, many records are broken and what once seemed like the limit becomes just another goal surpassed. Such evolution can be attributed to improvements and technological advances in equipment, training methods, recovery and mainly, nutrition and supplementation. More specifically, increasing carbohydrate consumption before and during competitions. 

In recent years, there has been an even more pronounced progression in performance in endurance modalities, which can be attributed to nutritional issues and new concepts of carbohydrate intake, since in longer activities the need for replacement is greater and inevitable. .

It's no coincidence that increased carbohydrate intake is in line with impressive advances in sports performance. Food trends come and go, but carbohydrates remain the kings of the world of endurance sports performance.

Currently athletes are consuming between 90 and 140 grams of carbohydrates per hour. This is almost double what was recommended a decade ago.

Nutrition, especially the ability to consume carbohydrates (during training and competitions), has become so important that today it can be considered the third pillar of endurance sports, alongside training and technology.


When competing, more is more


Supplementing with carbohydrates is not something new. What has changed are the strategies that athletes put into practice to maintain their glycogen stores. Specifically the new formulations of carbohydrate-based dietary supplements, which provide greater consumption and oxidation throughout the activity in a tolerable way.

Mixing different types of carbohydrates (different carriers) in specific proportions changed the old "limit" of 60-90 grams per hour.

As an example, we have Ironman 2022 champion athlete Reinaldo Colucci who reports: “in the past, carbohydrate intake was based exclusively on a simple carbohydrate, dextrose. Today with the Z2 mix , in addition to better absorption, the flavor is also different. Flavors like Neutral from Z2 facilitate greater consumption. At the beginning of my career, I consumed around 100g/hour and today I can reach 140g/hour and the improvement in performance is noticeable”.

Reinaldo Colucci


Consumption limits have been shifted thanks to new proportions of maltodextrin/glucose-fructose that ensure oxidation is maximized (everything consumed is used as energy at the highest rate).

The risk of "gastrointestinal upset" from excessive consumption (overloading a single carrier) has been mitigated. New formulations make it possible for the body to absorb absurd levels of sugar.

It is worth remembering that to achieve “maximization of oxidation” adaptation and intestinal training must be carried out.


Training to eat, eating to train


Eating as intensely as modern high-performance athletes do takes practice. And this practice is where the professional athlete is reinventing the way they think.

Athletes now eat during their training the same way they eat during their races. The trend of low-carb or fasted training remains relevant, but carefully periodized and structured in a training program.

Fasted or low-carb sessions encourage the use of fats for fuel. It is a practice that improves the physiology of athletes throughout the day. But it's the carbohydrate-rich sessions that break plateaus and build the ability to make rhythm changes that build victories. The Performance.


Vittoria Lopes

For every low-carb training session, an athlete will face a high-intensity workout loaded with gels, bars and energy drinks. They allow athletes to find out how much they can tolerate, "condition" their gastrointestinal tract for the carbohydrate frenzy of racing, and help them achieve maximum intervals.

And this is how previous power thresholds and records fall.


"Eat to train, eat to run, eat to recover"


Financial investment and investment in scientific research in nutrition have been one of the markers of recent progress in sports performance.

A high-performance endurance athlete consumes 5,000 to 7,000 calories of energy per day, from breakfast to bed, which keeps them fueled for training, racing and recovery.


The self-perpetuating carbohydrate cycle


The increasing speeds, rhythms and powers cannot be attributed exclusively to the recent "carbohydrate revolution". However, the ability to tolerate more carbohydrates for training, racing and recovery is creating a kind of self-perpetuating cycle.

Carb-loaded athletes can train harder and recover better. The result? They run faster.

Yet, ironically, the intensity made possible by more intense eating can only be sustained with more fuel.

How far will the supply go? And how quickly will athletes progress? Physiologists and nutritionists recognize that there is a limit to "safe" carbohydrate intake, but they don't think elite sport has met it yet.

Meanwhile, nutrition brands are evolving their product lines to meet the demand for more, and physiologists experiment with test athletes to see how far things can go.

It's only a matter of time before today's "carb limit" is blown away.


Lucas Verthein




 Dr. José Paulo Gomes Puccinelli - CRM 151.357 SP

Maria Cecília Lapa de Carvalho Assad - CRN3 51540