17. Carbs and Sports Performance: The Principles

Can athletes fat-adapt their workouts? This lesson lays down the principles of exercise biochemistry and physiology needed to understand the importance of the three energy systems supporting energy metabolism in skeletal muscle: the phosphagen system (ATP and creatine), anaerobic glycolysis (dependent on carbs), and oxidative phosphorylation (dependent on carbs, fat, or protein). We discuss why maximal intensity always depends on carbs if the intensity and duration are sufficient to deplete phosphocreatine concentrations, and clarify the window of time and intensity that can be fat-adapted. This sets the foundation for the next lesson, which looks at the evidence of how carbohydrate restriction and ketogenic diets impact sports performance.