Carbohydrate intake during exercise and performance

Nutrition. Jul-Aug 2004;20(7-8):669-77. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.017.


It is generally accepted that carbohydrate (CHO) feeding during exercise can improve endurance capacity (time to exhaustion) and exercise performance during prolonged exercise (>2 h). More recently, studies have also shown ergogenic effects of CHO feeding during shorter exercise of high intensity ( approximately 1 h at >75% of maximum oxygen consumption). During prolonged exercise the mechanism behind this performance improvement is likely to be related to maintenance of high rates of CHO oxidation and the prevention of hypoglycemia. Nevertheless, other mechanisms may play a role, depending on the type of exercise and the specific conditions. The mechanism for performance improvements during higher-intensity exercise is less clear, but there is some evidence that CHO can have central effects. In the past few years, studies have investigated ways to optimize CHO delivery and bioavailability. An analysis of all studies available shows that a single CHO ingested during exercise will be oxidized at rates up to about 1 g/min, even when large amounts of CHO are ingested. Combinations of CHO that use different intestinal transporters for absorption (e.g., glucose and fructose) have been shown to result in higher oxidation rates, and this seems to be a way to increase exogenous CHO oxidation rates by 20% to 50%. The search will continue for ways to further improve CHO delivery and to improve the oxidation efficiency resulting in less accumulation of CHO in the gastrointestinal tract and potentially decreasing gastrointestinal problems during prolonged exercise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacokinetics
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates