Curvilinear dose-response relationship of carbohydrate (0-120 g·h(-1)) and performance

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Feb;45(2):336-41. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827205d1.


Background: There is a lack of consensus regarding the optimal range of carbohydrate (CHO) ingestion rates recommended for endurance athletes.

Purpose: This study investigated the relationship between CHO dose and cycling time trial performance to identify an optimal range of CHO ingestion rates for endurance performance.

Methods: Fifty-one cyclists and triathletes (28 ± 7 yr, mean ± SD) across four research sites completed four trials. Each trial consisted of a 2-h constant load ride at 95% of the workload that elicited a 4-mmol·L(-1) blood lactate concentration immediately followed by a computer-simulated 20-km time trial, which subjects were asked to complete as quickly as possible. Twelve CHO electrolyte (18 mmol·L(-1) Na, 3 mmol·L(-1) K, and 11 mmol·L(-1) Cl) beverages (three at each site) were tested in a double-blind manner, providing subjects 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, and 120 g CHO (1:1:1 glucose-fructose-maltodextrin) per hour during the 2-h constant load ride at a fluid intake rate of 1 L·h(-1). All subjects also consumed a noncaloric placebo on one counterbalanced test occasion. Data were natural log transformed, subjected to a mixed-model analysis, and are reported as adjusted treatment means.

Results: We estimate incremental performance improvements of 1.0%, 2.0%, 3.0%, 4.0%, and 4.7% at 9, 19, 31, 48, and 78 g·h, respectively, with diminishing performance enhancement seen at CHO levels >78 g·h(-1).

Conclusions: CHO beverage ingestion and endurance (∼160 min) performance appear to be related in a curvilinear dose-response manner, with the best performance occurring with a CHO (1:1:1 glucose-fructose-maltodextrin) ingestion rate of 78 g·h(-1).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Beverages
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Lactates / blood
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Running / physiology*
  • Swimming / physiology*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Lactates