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Low Carb Vs High Carb for Performance

An infographic of a study showing the effect of low-carb vs high-carb sports nutrition on football perfomance
Low-Carb vs High Carb on Performance During a Football Match

A primary area of sports nutrition - and daily is fuelling for the work required. To support function, health and performance, whether cognitive, technical or physical performance.

The above image is of a study examining the impact of low-carb vs high-carb on the same players during two football matches.

It’s well-known that many athletes under fuel, and from a performance perspective (football nutrition in this case), without listing health considerations, it can cause:

  • Reductions in total distance covered in a game

  • Reductions in distance covered in all speed brackets - walking to sprinting.

  • Reductions in technical skill.

  • Increases in perceived exertion (how tough a task feels)

  • Increase in physiological stress for the same work.

This study - the important bits:

Two teams played each other twice (one week between games)

  • 20 players included (all players except goalkeepers)

  • Blue bar - high carb game

  • Orange bar - low carb game

Match 1

  • 3.5 days before the first match:

  • Team A follows high carb (8g CHO per kg body mass a day)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

  • Team B follows low carb (3 g CHO per kg body nass a day)

Match 2 (one week later)

  • The dietary protocols were then reversed so both teams have played a game where the players were high-carb and low-carb.


Every player covered a greater total distance using a high-carb diet. Compared with the distance covered in a low-carb diet (HC: 9,380 6 98 m vs. LC: 8,077 6 109 m; p , 0.01).

All distances covered, from easy jogging to sprinting, were also higher in High carb status compared with low carb (p , 0.01).

What does this particular study mean

Adequate fuelling for football players the days leading up to a football match will enhance the total distance covered and distance covered in each speed bracket.

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PMID: 23168373


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