Fueling strategies to optimize performance: training high or training low?

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Oct:20 Suppl 2:48-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2010.01185.x.


Availability of carbohydrate as a substrate for the muscle and central nervous system is critical for the performance of both intermittent high-intensity work and prolonged aerobic exercise. Therefore, strategies that promote carbohydrate availability, such as ingesting carbohydrate before, during and after exercise, are critical for the performance of many sports and a key component of current sports nutrition guidelines. Guidelines for daily carbohydrate intakes have evolved from the "one size fits all" recommendation for a high-carbohydrate diets to an individualized approach to fuel needs based on the athlete's body size and exercise program. More recently, it has been suggested that athletes should train with low carbohydrate stores but restore fuel availability for competition ("train low, compete high"), based on observations that the intracellular signaling pathways underpinning adaptations to training are enhanced when exercise is undertaken with low glycogen stores. The present literature is limited to studies of "twice a day" training (low glycogen for the second session) or withholding carbohydrate intake during training sessions. Despite increasing the muscle adaptive response and reducing the reliance on carbohydrate utilization during exercise, there is no clear evidence that these strategies enhance exercise performance. Further studies on dietary periodization strategies, especially those mimicking real-life athletic practices, are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Competitive Behavior
  • Diet
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism*
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Sports Medicine*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Dietary Carbohydrates