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Game Day Fuel: What are carbs and why do you need them?

To talk about carbs, we’ve tapped Allison Maurer, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Associate Athletic Director of Student Health and Wellness at Knoxville Catholic High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. Allison has been in the sports nutrition field for nearly two decades and now dedicates her time to fueling high school athletes.  

Allison Maurer, MS, RD, CSSD

Why do we need carbohydrates when exercising?

For any athlete, carbohydrates are the main fuel source for muscles during exercise.  Not only that, carbohydrates fuel the brain as well.

To look at carbs in more detail, carbohydrates are composed mainly of simple sugars known as fructose and glucose, and they help maintain exercise intensity and support high-level performance. Fructose and glucose are considered high glycemic carbohydrates.  That means they are digested and absorbed quickly and are readily available as an energy source for the muscles and brain. 

“Faster absorption of carbs provides more fuel for an athlete during a workout, helps prolong exercise performance, and may be easier on the stomach than other carbohydrate sources.” Says Allison “Natural sweeteners like honey (found in Honey Stinger’s products), are composed of both glucose and fructose.”

How do I choose the right fuel is for my kid?

When it comes to fueling your child, it is important to take into consideration both the type of carbohydrate source  consumed, and to teach your child how to “train their gut”.  For example, would a large portion of fries 30-minutes before a practice settle well in their stomach? or something smaller, lighter and faster absorbing like a Honey Stinger waffle?  

“One rule of thumb I tell young athletes: You want to eat enough to know you have energy but not so much that you feel it while exercising.” Says Allison.

The sooner your child understands his or her pre-practice/competition carbohydrate fueling strategy, the better.  

It will look different for each person so there is not necessarily a magic number of grams of carbohydrates to consume.  However, if your child needs a general guideline, think 20-30 grams of carbs 30-60 minutes before activity.  

When to use Honey Stinger products?

Eat Honey Stinger Waffles before a practice or competition: Fueling up with a Honey Stinger waffle gives the body a complex carb, releasing energy over a longer period of time. Allison recommends about 30 minutes to an hour before, along with a good source of hydration to top off carbohydrate stores for exercise.  

Eat Honey Stinger Chews during the game: Fueling up with Honey Stinger Chews provides a faster and more immediate release of energy. There are so many ways to use Honey Stinger chews and it all depends on the sport and gut tolerance.  Here are a few examples:

  • Baseball-Eat a few between each inning to sustain energy
  • Soccer, Basketball, football, volleyball, hockey and other stop and go sports-Half-time to replenish carbohydrates and prepare for the second half of the competition
  • Tennis-Eat a few between games

“When I say it depends on gut tolerance, that goes back to training the gut.  Some people can tolerate a whole bag of chews in one sitting and others need to eat them more gradually for optimal digestion and absorption.“ Says Allison.  “When in doubt, you can always reference back to the above fueling strategy, eat enough to feel fueled but not so much where you can feel it. “

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June 23, 2023

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