Periodization of Carbohydrate Intake: Short-Term Effect on Performance

Nutrients. 2016 Nov 25;8(12):755. doi: 10.3390/nu8120755.


Background: "Sleep-low" consists of a sequential periodization of carbohydrate (CHO) availability-low glycogen recovery after "train high" glycogen-depleting interval training, followed by an overnight-fast and light intensity training ("train low") the following day. This strategy leads to an upregulation of several exercise-responsive signaling proteins, but the chronic effect on performance has received less attention. We investigated the effects of short-term exposure to this strategy on endurance performance.

Methods: Following training familiarization, 11 trained cyclists were divided into two groups for a one-week intervention-one group implemented three cycles of periodized CHO intake to achieve the sleep-low strategy over six training sessions (SL, CHO intake: 6 g·kg-1·day-1), whereas the control group consumed an even distribution of CHO over the day (CON). Tests were a 2 h submaximal ride and a 20 km time trial.

Results: SL improved their performance (mean: +3.2%; p < 0.05) compared to CON. The improvement was associated with a change in pacing strategy with higher power output during the second part of the test. No change in substrate utilization was observed after the training period for either group.

Conclusion: Implementing the "sleep-low" strategy for one week improved performance by the same magnitude previously seen in a three-week intervention, without any significant changes in selected markers of metabolism.

Keywords: carbohydrate; cycling time trial; lipid oxidation; perception of effort; performance; trained athletes; training.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Bicycling / physiology
  • Diet
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Periodicity*
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects*
  • Sports Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Carbohydrates