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Active Voice: Train High or Low with Carbohydrate? Best Strategies for Improving Sports Performance

from By Louise Burke, Ph.D., FACSM, FSMA

Traditionally, athletes have approached their daily workouts to train as hard as possible, using strategies that promote good performance, just as they would in a race or match. In many sports, these strategies involve fueling up with carbohydrates before, during and between workouts to sustain the capacity to produce power. Recently, however, scientists have proposed an alternative approach – training smarter by trying for greater outcomes from the same training impulse. The muscles’ reactions have shown that when a muscle is low in carbohydrate fuel, there is an increased chemical response to a training stimulus. One study by Bengt Saltin’s group in Denmark compared what happened when untrained people completed ten weeks of training with one leg training low (TL) and the other leg training high (TH). Although each leg completed the same training sessions, the TL leg beat out the TH leg in terms of the muscle’s changes and its capacity to exercise until fatigued. While some publicity surrounding this study suggests otherwise, the outcomes from TL weren’t achieved by following a low carbohydrate diet. Rather, this was accomplished by doing two sessions of exercise back-to-back so the muscle had no time to refuel before the second session. Only half of the training was done with low muscle fuel stores. more

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