Carbohydrates are needed for performance and recovery. Despite years of research suggesting that carbohydrates are the optimal source of fuel for athletes, it is still apparent that many people still fear consuming carbohydrates.
CARBS DON’T MAKE YOU FAT
Carbs make you fat is alive and still going strong in the female athletic world, according to a new study in Science and Medicine in Football.(1) Researchers collected interviews with female soccer players, parents, coaches, sports scientists, nutritionists, and medical staff regarding the role of nutrition in supporting soccer performance in elite female soccer players.
When researchers compiled the data, it is clear that much confusion exists about the role of carbohydrates in sports performance for women soccer players. Players were deemed “under-fueled” due to their misunderstanding of the role of carbohydrates in sports performance. The women soccer players feared carbohydrates would cause weight gain and had negative perceptions of the role of carbohydrates on body image.
MOST FEMALE ATHLETES BELIEVE CARBS ARE STORED AS FAT
The main reasons for fear of consuming carbohydrates were based on pressures from things read on social media, coaches, and the frequent use of skinfolds, which players thought carbohydrates would make them fat. One player’s parent said she placed her daughter on a low-carbohydrate diet so she would not get fat. Another player said, “It was quite difficult for me to actually transition into eating, like, more carbs and more calories because I was scared of putting weight back on. Sometimes I just don’t want to eat carbs because I know they will make me fat.”
Most players and stakeholders (except for nutritionists) did not understand the importance of consuming higher levels of CHO the day before a game. The results are similar to the findings of Krustrup et al., who found that one of the 24 female players consumed the correct amount of carbohydrates before the game. Thus, many players were starting the game with suboptimal glycogen stores. (2)
FEMALE ATHLETES BELIEVE YOU NEED YO CUT CARBS TO LOSE BELLY FAT
This suggests that many female athletes are starting games with less-than-optimal carbohydrates for optimal performance. Many female athletes still heavily believe that carbohydrates will contribute to excess body fatness.(3, 4) The frequent use of skinfold assessments over the training season further exacerbated the fear of carbohydrates.
This study is similar to the previous finding in which the avoidance of carbohydrates is perceived in female soccer players to promote a favorable body composition.(5) Carbohydrates are needed for performance and recovery. Despite years of research suggesting that carbohydrates are the optimal source of fuel for athletes, it is still apparent that many people still fear consuming carbohydrates.
1. McHaffie SJ, Langan-Evans C, Morehen JC, Strauss JA, Areta JL, Rosimus C, et al. Carbohydrate fear, skinfold targets and body image issues: a qualitative analysis of player and stakeholder perceptions of the nutrition culture within elite female soccer. Sci Med Footb. 2022:1-11.
2. Krustrup P, Mohr M, Nybo L, Draganidis D, Randers MB, Ermidis G, et al. Muscle metabolism and impaired sprint performance in an elite women’s football game. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2022;32 Suppl 1:27-38.
5. Collins J, Maughan RJ, Gleeson M, Bilsborough J, Jeukendrup A, Morton JP, et al. UEFA expert group statement on nutrition in elite football. Current evidence to inform practical recommendations and guide future research. Br J Sports Med. 2021;55(8):416.