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BJSM reviews: A–Z of nutritional supplements: dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance Part 8
  1. L M Castell1,
  2. L M Burke2,
  3. S J Stear3,
  4. R J Maughan4
  1. 1University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia
  3. 3Performance Influencers Limited, London, UK
  4. 4School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
  1. Correspondence to L M Castell, University of Oxford, Green Templeton College, Oxford OX2 6HG, UK; lindy.castell{at}

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Introductory remarks

Carbohydrate is an essential part of the human diet and is the macronutrient that supplies the greatest fraction of total energy intake for most people. Because of its central role in energy metabolism during exercise, it plays a vital role in the athlete's diet. Though well-chosen foods can meet carbohydrate needs in many situations, carbohydrate supplements may be useful before, during and after exercise to help athletes achieve their nutrition goals. These supplements may be in solid, liquid or gel format and may or may not contain other nutrients. Judicious selection of carbohydrate-containing foods and supplements in the overall diet and around exercise sessions can help athletes to optimise training and competition performance. In this review, the authors have included two tables giving current recommendations for carbohydrate intakes for sport, as well as a range of products that can help to meet these goals.


L M Burke R J Maughan

The term ‘carbohydrate’ refers to members of a large family of organic compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen with the general formula Cm(H2O)n. Carbohydrates can exist as single molecules (monosaccharides) such as glucose (a six-carbon hexose with the formula C6H12O6), but these can polymerise to form chains that vary in length from two (disaccharides) to tens of thousands of glucose units (polysaccharides). ‘Sugars’ is the term used to refer to monosaccharides such as glucose (dextrose) and fructose (fruit sugar), and the disaccharides sucrose (table sugar: one molecule of glucose and one of fructose) and lactose (milk sugar: glucose plus galactose). Five …

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  • LB, LC and SJ edited this series.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.