Carbohydrates and sport: the right message?

The fear of bread and carbohydrates is a phenomenon that is still very present and widely conveyed in the community, athletes included. However, the recommendations in connection with the sport do not give the same recipe for all, so why the idea that carbohydrates are bad?

Feed the movement

Carbohydrates are the most efficient source of energy for providing and creating energy in muscle. Although fat provides more calories per gram, from a performance standpoint, carbohydrates can generate more energy easily. Even over a long distance, fat is used up, but it’s the carbohydrates that keep you sprinting or picking up the tempo.

I train a little, a lot, passionately

The daily carbohydrate recommendations are generally made in g per kg of body weight, in order to personalize the recommendations to the person’s energy expenditure and his goal. Initially, if the goal is to gain mass, carbohydrate intakes will often be at the lower limit, even below the recommendations in the table below.

You also have to take into consideration the conditions, but also the efficiency of the movement and the speed of the training. If you’ve been running for 20 years, your stride is likely to be (hopefully) more efficient than when you first started, and therefore the energy expenditure is less.

Generally, light training is low intensity or includes technical skill exercises and will be less than an hour per day. When we talk about training with moderate expenditure, we consider that the person makes a sustained physical effort of an hour or so every day. So-called high energy expenditure is due to training for 1 to 3 hours per day at moderate to high intensities.

Thus, for light workouts, we will want to consume 3 to 5 g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight per day. Increase to 5 to 7g for a moderate training program. And who says carbohydrates does not just say bread and pasta! We sometimes forget that carbohydrates are found in almost all food groups.

Here is an idea of the recommended number of carbohydrates per day according to the level of training for a person of 60kg and 75kg:

What does one serving of carbohydrate look like?

  • 15 g of carbohydrates: 1 whole fruit or 1/2 cup of fruit salad
  • 30g of carbohydrates: 1 banana or 1 cup of orange juice
  • 45g of carbohydrates: 1 bagel or 1 cup of spaghetti pasta
  • 60g of carbohydrates : 2 potatoes or 2 home-made muffins


It is very important to note that an evaluation with a nutritionist will allow the recommendations to be personalized to your needs, your age, your food habits. The important thing is to find the formula that works for you, because everything is about BALANCE!



[1] Burke, L., Cox,G., The complete guide to food for sports performance. 2010 : Allen and Unwin edition.
[2] Dietitians of Canada, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine. (2016). Nutrition and Athletic Performance Position Paper.  URL :

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