Fuelling the female athlete: Carbohydrate and protein recommendations

Eur J Sport Sci. 2022 May;22(5):684-696. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2021.1922508. Epub 2021 May 20.


Optimal carbohydrate and protein intakes are vital for modulating training adaptation, recovery, and exercise performance. However, the research base underpinning contemporary sport nutrition guidelines has largely been conducted in male populations with a lack of consensus on whether the menstrual phase and associated changes in sex hormones allow broad application of these principles to female athletes. The present review will summarise our current understanding of carbohydrate and protein requirements in female athletes across the menstrual cycle and provide a critical analysis on how they compare to male athletes. On the basis of current evidence, we consider it premature to conclude that female athletes require sex specific guidelines in relation to CHO or protein requirements provided energy needs are met. However, there is a need for further research using sport-specific competition and training related exercise protocols that rigorously control for prior exercise, CHO/energy intake, contraceptive use and phase of menstrual cycle. Our overarching recommendation is to use current recommendations as a basis for adopting an individualised approach that takes into account athlete specific training and competition goals whilst also considering personal symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle.

Keywords: Glycogen; muscle protein synthesis; performance; recovery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sports*


  • Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Carbohydrates