Carbohydrate Intake and Performance

Have you ever been playing a match and thought to yourself, “wow, I am getting tired faster than usual, maybe very sore from matches the day before, or just don’t feel right etc.?” I thought I would change it up a little bit this week and talk about how nutrition can have a positive impact, or even negative impact on your performance. I believe proper nutrition is something everyone can do, no matter what your skill level is. In particular, carbohydrates are key to boosting physiological and psychological performance. They can also be very important in maximizing training level, endurance and recovery.

In a statement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on nutrition for athletes, it was stated: “A high carbohydrate diet in the days before competition will help enhance performance, particularly when exercise lasts longer than about 60 min and athletes should aim to achieve carbohydrate intakes that meet the fuel requirements of their training programs and also adequately replace their carbohydrate stores during recovery between training sessions and competition” (Jeukendrup, 2004). “Other research studies have shown that ingesting carbohydrates during prolonged exercise results in a reversal of fatigue” (Coggan et al, 1991; Coyle, 1995; Coyle et al, 1983). It is also important to understand that your brain uses carbohydrates to function efficiently. Carbohydrates are broken down into glycogen and glucose. At rest, your brain uses more glucose than any other organ.

How many carbs you need:

If you are training for 1 hour a day: 3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
If you are training for 2 hours a day: 3.6 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
If you are training for 3 hours a day: 5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.

If you are 150lbs and training for three hours, that means you should be consuming 750 grams of carbohydrates. Preferably this consumption should happen 2 to 3 hours prior to playing your match or practice. This will vary from person to person. It is also important to remember that this “750 grams” is separate from the carbohydrates in your regular diet.

During the match:

Ingesting healthy carbohydrates BEFORE the match is the most effective. However, during a match the classic banana usually does the trick. It is also important to drink plenty of water, and if a sports drink is desired my personal preference is Pedialyte.


One thing that I feel is important is that this is more of a lifestyle change then a diet. For this to most effective, it must be a daily routine. This will be less effective if done sporadically. Lastly, I encourage you to personalize this and any other performance enhancing nutritional needs, so that you are 100% aware of what does and does not work for you. Proper nutrition truly could be the difference between winning and losing a match.

Here is a good list of healthy carbs to consume. There are many others.

– Carlos Bermudez Tennis

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