Adolescent athletes and chronic glycogen depletion

Recently in my clinic I have seen a number of talented adolescent swimmers and triathletes that share similar signs and symptoms of chronic glycogen depletion. Good recovery practices and carbohydrate intake is something that I’ve previously discussed, but this recent cluster of likely cases has inspired me to dig a little deeper.

The athletes that I consulted with have been growing and developing physically, are involved in intense cognitive function (I.e. learning at school), and train 7-12 times per week. All of which increase carbohydrate requirements, often well above the general recommendations for age and gender.

On assessment I found that the athletes shared similar signs and symptoms of low glycogen stores, including:

·         Decline in competition performance

·         Training and competition reportedly felt ‘harder’ than usual

·         Feeling tired, and irritable or ‘moody’

·         Poor concentration at school

Dietary assessments in all athletes revealed low intakes of the primary carbohydrate containing food group, Breads and Cereals. The majority of athletes assessed had adequate protein intakes having regularly consumed sufficient Dairy, and Meat and Meat Alternatives. Interestingly, they generally had better understanding of the role of protein, than they did for carbohydrates.

I believe this may have to do with the public’s interest in higher protein, lower carbohydrate diets, and also protein supplements. One parent suggested that she recently changed the family’s diet by reducing carbohydrate and increasing protein intake, because she was following a weight loss diet that was helping her to lose weight.

Through the consultation process the parent realised that a ‘lower’ carbohydrate diet wasn’t appropriate for her daughter’s nutritional needs. She is happy to report that since increasing carbohydrate intake to match her requirements,  her daughter is performing better at school and in the pool, and is feeling much brighter and less moody.

If your child athlete is experiencing the signs and symptoms of chronic glycogen depletion, and would like support with training and competition meal planning, feel free to contact me or visit the following websites:

Andrea Sparrow