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How to FuelRunning

Female Athletes: should they consume more or less carbs?

  • The misconception is that smaller bodies need less fueling.
  • Men and women both need to fuel with the same amount of carbs.
  • The limiting factor is how many carbs per hour we can absorb.
  • Less body mass means less calorie burn but more potential to replinish it.

Let's start with the first statement from Dr. Stacy Sims "Women are not small men."

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, and an excellent pre-conceived notion of demystifying is how many carbs per hour a female athlete should consume versus a male athlete.

The Carb Complex

Traditional thinking is that women are small men so in terms of fueling they should need fewer carbs.

The answer: Female athletes should consume the same amount of carbs.

The best research I have found is that during moderate to high-intensity workouts over 60 minutes, we should not lower the number of carbs per hour an athlete consumes based on body weight. I realize this isn't gender specific, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

The reason is that the limiting factor is how many carbs per hour we can absorb, and all athletes seem to absorb carbohydrates at similar rates, regardless of size.

For example, a 130lb athlete versus a 185lbs athlete will absorb the same amount of carbs per minute in their gut.

But doesn't the lower body mass athlete burn fewer carbs?

Yes, that is true, but in most cases the amount you can absorb per hour will still be less than what you are burning.

The Performance Advantage

Since the athlete with a lower body mass is burning fewer carbs per hour, and if they consume the same amount, they will be replenishing a high percentage of the carbs they are burning. More fuel coming in and relatively less going out – giving them a performance advantage.

Why are so many female athletes under fueling?

In my experience in speaking with our female athletes, they are not fueling enough the majority of the time. I can't say why, but I suspect there is a misconception that they need less fuel.

How to Fuel Workouts with Carbs

For more about high-carb fueling, check out this blog post on the Feed Fueling Formula. Here are the top 5 High-Carb Fueling options for female athletes:

We look forward to more female-focused topics to come so keep an eye on this space!

Avatar Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson / Monday, April 25, 2022