Nutrition: Team Sport Players Can Deplete Their Glycogen Stores

Nutrition: Team Sport Players Can Deplete Their Glycogen Stores

Dick Moss, Editor

Many coaches are aware that it takes about 90 minutes of continuous moderate exercise (i.e. at 60-80% of V02 max) to deplete an athlete's carbohydrate stores. As a result, they think that muscle glycogen (muscle fuel) depletion is a concern only for marathoners.

But beware, coaches of team sports. Higher intensity exercise depletes glycogen stores at a much faster rate. In fact, an athlete's muscle glycogen can be depleted after only 15-30 minutes of high-intensity exercise (90%-130% of V02 max) — even if the exercise is performed interval-style, in 1 to 5 minute periods of high intensity effort separated by rest periods.

What does this mean? Your players, in games such as hockey, soccer and lacrosse, can actually become glycogen-depleted before they've completed a hard game or practice. The result will be fatigue and a premature drop in intensity of effort.

As a result, be sure players take some carbohydrate (i.e. in the form of sport drinks or easily digested foods such as energy bars)—especially during the beginning minutes of games and difficult practices. This will help to maintain normal blood sugar (glucose) levels and delay the onset of fatigue.

And carbohydrate replenishment is particularly important between games in any tournament situation or immediately after practices, for optimal recovery before the next session.

1. Nancy Clark, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook-5th Edition, Human Kinetics, 2013.
2. Edward F. Coyle (PhD), and Effie Coyle (M.A., R.D., L.D.), “Carbohydrates that speed recovery from training.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine, February, 1993.

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