Sports Nutrition Evolution
The importance of carbohydrate for athletes was recognized as far back as the 1924 Boston marathon where it was discovered that blood glucose levels decreased in the top runners during the 1924 Boston marathon. The following year carbohydrate feeding was shown to prevent the decline in blood glucose and improve performance. However the notion that carbohydrate feeding was important for athletes was not fully appreciated until the late 1960s shortly after the advent of the biopsy needle which allowed histological and biochemical studies of human muscle before, during and after exercise. This early research led to the understanding of the importance of muscle glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate in muscles, as a fuel for active muscle during prolonged exercise and made the connection between glycogen depletion and fatigue(1, 2). Researchers discovered that manipulating an athlete’s training combined with a high carbohydrate diet several days prior to exercise (carbohydrate loading) significantly increased muscle glycogen levels and delayed fatigue(3). Subsequent work throughout the 1970s and 80s continued to investigate the impact of carbohydrate feeding and fluid intake on exercise performance. During this time the carbohydrate and electrolyte beverage Gatorade, originally created by medical researchers at the University of Florida for players during hot summer football practices, was being formulated and commercialized on a massive scale. The momentum created by the early science and consumer marketing of carbohydrate based beverages to athletes continues strong today.
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