SIS - Importance of carbohydrates for AFL

SIS - Importance of carbohydrates for AFL

It is common to see some team sport athletes restrict carbohydrates as a means to ‘lose weight’ or even to become ‘fat adapted’, with the aim to enhance the use of fat as a fuel source during exercise. With AFL match play requiring strong endurance and repeated sprints, usually covering between 13-15km in distance and over 2k in high intensity sprint distance(1), carbohydrate is the main fuel for AFL performance. Although fat has the potential to provide more energy, it is used slowly, with carbohydrate yielding more energy per litre of oxygen consumed and a more efficient fuel source. This provides energy quickly to be used by the working muscles during exercise. Although an athlete can enhance the way they use fat a fuel source, potentially sparing muscle glycogen stores(2), AFL winning performance is fuelled by carbohydrates.

Fuel for the work required in training

A nutritional plan for carbohydrate intake on training days should differ according to what the training goals are for that specific day, hence “fuel for the work required”(2). Rest days and low intensity sessions could be performed with low carbohydrate intake, whereas for the hard effort sessions and very prolonged duration field sessions, carbohydrate intake is essential. In such instances, carbohydrate should be consumed before, during and after the practices, as you would do in a game. It’s important that gels and carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks are taken throughout high paced training sessions during natural breaks as you would also take fuel like this in a game as well as during quarters and half time. This strategy will help prolong energy stores and ideally save them for when they’re needed most e.g high intensity plays.

Carbohydrate Loading

Focusing on your diet as you taper for a game will help you to maximise your energy stores for AFL performance. It’s important that you ‘fuel for the work required’ on training and rest days, you don’t need a depletion phase before you carbohydrate load. This short period of increased carbohydrate intake with a training taper is sufficient to boost your glycogen stores. Follow these guidelines that consider carbohydrate intake based on the length of an event and your body mass(3).

  • Preparing for intense exercise under 90 minutes: 7-12 g/kg (of body mass) of carbohydrate 24 hours prior the game
  • Immediate pre game fuelling for events lasting over 60 minutes: 1-4 g/kg (of body mass) of carbohydrate 1-4 hours before exercise

    Game day Carbohydrate intake

    Half time and quarter time provides a great opportunity to refuel. Many players prefer not to eat solid foods during the game due to the intensity, with the aim to prevent stomach distress(4). The nutritional literature recommends that you take on around 60 g of carbohydrate per hour(3, 5), prior to and during (including half-time) AFL performance to help maintain high-intensity running and skill execution. At quarters and half time, your body will need to replace the carbohydrates that it has used alongside rehydrating. SiS GO Electrolyte in addition to an SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel can provide the body with exactly what it needs to help you hit both energy and hydration goals together. Post game, it’s important to replenish glycogen stores to promote optimum recovery. Aim to take on 1.2 g/kg of carbohydrate in the hour after finishing the game (especially if you have consecutive games or training sessions)(3). Use REGO to help provide carbohydrate, protein, electrolytes and minerals to support the recovery process.

    During: 1st Quarter – 250ml GO Electrolyte Half Time – 1* SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel; 250ml GO Electrolyte 2nd Quarter – 250ml GO Electrolyte (1* Isotonic Gel if needed)

    Post Game: Within 30 minutes – REGO Rapid Recovery Within 60 minutes – Meal containing 1.2 g/kg of carbohydrate


    Sullivan, C., Bilsborough, J. C., Cianciosi, M., Hocking, J., Cordy, J. T., & Coutts, A. J. (2014). Factors affecting match performance in professional Australian football. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 9(3), 561-566. Impey, S. G., Hammond, K. M., Shepherd, S. O., Sharples, A. P., Stewart, C., Limb, M., & Close, G. L. (2016). Fuel for the work required: a practical approach to amalgamating train‐low paradigms for endurance athletes. Physiological Reports, 4(10), e12803. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 48(3), 543 de Oliveira, E. P., Burini, R. C., & Jeukendrup, A. (2014). Gastrointestinal complaints during exercise: prevalence, etiology, and nutritional recommendations. Sports Medicine, 44(1), 79-85. Naderi, A., de Oliviera, E. P., Ziegenfuss, T. N., & Willems, M. E. (2016). Timing, optimal dose and intake duration of dietary supplements with evidence-based uses in sports nutrition. Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry (In Press).

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