7 Practical Tips for Carbohydrate and Protein Intake

By: Dr. Bob Murray, Managing Principal at Sports Science Insights and advisor to HOTSHOT

The American College of Sports Medicine, the leading professional organization for exercise scientists and sports medicine physicians, recently published an updated position on Nutrition and Athletic Performance. The paper reviewed and evaluated all the latest research on sports nutrition. Here are tips athletes should follow to help achieve peak performance:


  1. Don’t skimp on carbs. Carbohydrate (glucose) is the most important energy source because it fuels the brain, central nervous system, and muscles during training and competition. Glucose is the muscles’ preferred fuel during intense exercise because, unlike fat, glucose can be metabolized quickly and produces more energy per volume of oxygen.
  2. Keep your muscles fueled. Maintaining blood and muscle glucose (glycogen) through a proper diet and carbohydrate ingestion during exercise enhances exercise capacity, maintains mental focus, and sustains motor skills, while making exercise feel easier (reduced perception of effort.)
  3. Experiment with low fuel stores. Training periodically with low muscle glycogen stores or training in a fasted state or without carbohydrate intake during training (i.e., “training low”) all result in enhanced training adaptations. “Training low” should be done only periodically—perhaps once every few weeks—within a periodized training program.
  4. Follow these guidelines for carbohydrate intake:
    • Daily diet. Consume enough carbohydrate during the day to replace the glycogen used during training. For light exercise lasting less than one hour: 1.4 – 2.3 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight will be enough to fully replenish glycogen stores. For hard training lasting about an hour: 2.3 – 3.2 g carb/lb body weight. For hard training lasting 1 to 3 hours: 2.7- 4.5 g/lb BW. For hard training lasting 4 or more hours: 3.6 – 5.5 g/lb BW.
    • During training and competition. For exercise lasting an hour or less, use a carbohydrate mouth wash to activate the brain and muscles. For exercise lasting 1 – 2.5 hours, ingest 30 – 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. For exercise lasting more than 2.5 hours, consume 60 – 90 grams of carbohydrate each hour.
  5. Eat enough protein. Athletes need more daily protein than sedentary individuals because stressed muscles, bones, and connective tissue require more protein (amino acids) for growth, repair, and adaptation. For that reason, athletes should strive to consume a total of 0.5 – 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
  6. Spread your protein intake evenly. Protein intake should be spread evenly across meals to maximize recovery, adaptation, and strength gain. For example, a 165-lb athlete who wants to consume 150 grams of protein each day should achieve that goal by ingesting 50 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If the athlete wants to eat five meals each day, each meal should contain 30 grams of protein.
  7. Refuel soon after training. After training, consuming carbohydrate and protein as soon as possible speeds recovery and helps maximize adaptions.



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