High Glycemic Foods for Endurance Athletes


High glycemic foods can play an important role in your performance.

High Glycemic Foods for Endurance Athletes

Endurance athletes follow a specific nutrition plan for optimal performance to support healthy body functions and development of lean muscle tissue. Proper nutrition plans have a balance of macronutrients — carbohydrates, protein and fat. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for endurance athletes. Most of the carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates that are low glycemic, but some simple sugars from high glycemic foods play an important role for performance.


The glycemic index refers to the rate at which carbohydrates enter the bloodstream. High glycemic foods are characterized by raising blood sugar levels more quickly than low-glycemic foods. While the high glycemic foods increase blood sugar levels quickly, they have a short time frame for continued blood sugar levels. The increased absorption rate is a result of the small sugar molecules that cross directly into the bloodstream. Endurance athletes strategically use these quick absorption rates to extend endurance for improved performance.


High glycemic foods have a glycemic load of 70 or above, and are found in a variety of food sources. The most common sources of high glycemic foods come from processed foods such as white flour, potatoes, refined cereals and sports drinks. The carbohydrates within these products include glucose, maltodextrin and sucrose. Other sugar sources, such as fructose or agave nectar are considered to be low-glycemic.


Endurance athletes use various supplements during training and a race that contain a combination of carbohydrates. These supplements include high glycemic carbohydrates that functions to replenish glycogen stores, increase blood sugar levels and to provide a source of energy. Fluids and hydration products such as sports drinks are the easiest supplements for endurance athletes to consume while training for more than 60 minutes. Other high glycemic supplements used by endurance athletes include energy gels, sports bars and sport beans.


High glycemic foods are used to improve performance, but low glycemic foods are generally healthier in everyday nutrition. Consult a doctor or registered dietitian before adjusting your nutrition plan. Practice with the high glycemic foods during training to prevent any gastric distress or stomach issues during the race. Always follow the nutritional guidelines on the package.


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