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Carbs for Weightlifting

What is the impact on resistance training performance?

Trainer needing carbs for weightlifting

While the role carbohydrates play in improving endurance performance has been well played out in the scientific literature, less is known about the role that the macronutrient plays in resistance training. This is a shortfall that investigators from New Zealand sought to remedy with a comprehensive review of the available literature on carbs for weightlifting and the impact on resistance training performance.

Their findings, published in Sports Medicine, suggest that carbohydrate ingestion before and during resistance training can allow for a greater volume of training to be completed: the specific amount of weight used per set, the number of repetitions performed and the total number of sets in a workout. This certainly could result in improved gains from workouts.

Note that the benefit was mostly realized when training sessions lasted at least 45 minutes and especially if following a prolonged fast of 8 hours or more, such as training in the morning following an overnight fast. At least 0.3 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight seemed to be required for a boost to occur.

Though the stressors and energy demands of weightlifting differ from endurance training, the former can also result in decreases of total muscle glycogen stores and depletion of intra-myofibrillar (within muscle fibers) glycogen which could impair the contractile ability of muscle and play a role in the onset of fatigue. Eating adequate amounts of carbs for weightlifting before or during long sessions could help offset this. Carb feeding may also improve training performance by better maintaining blood glucose levels and activating receptors that relay signals to regions of the brain involved in motivation and motor output.

The study authors did caution that the higher volume of training realized with carb feeding could require a greater posttraining recovery period.

See also: Carbs for Athletes

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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