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High Alt Med Biol. 2012 Mar;13(1):22-31. doi: 10.1089/ham.2011.1087.

Carbohydrate supplementation and exercise performance at high altitude: a randomized controlled trial.

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Extremes Research Group, School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, United Kingdom.


Acute carbohydrate supplementation decreases effort perception and increases endurance exercise capacity at sea level. It also improves laboratory-based endurance performance at altitude. However, the effect of chronic carbohydrate supplementation at altitude, when acclimatization may attenuate carbohydrate effects, achieved doses are lower and metabolic effects may be different, is unknown and was therefore focused on in the present study. Forty-one members of a 22-day high altitude expedition were randomized in a double-blind design to receive either placebo or carbohydrate supplementation. Diet was manipulated with commercially available energy drinks consumed ad libitum throughout the expedition. Participants performed a mountaineering time trial at 5192 m, completed submaximal incremental exercise step tests to assess cardiovascular parameters before, during, and after the expedition, and recorded spontaneous physical activity by accelerometer on rest days. Compared to placebo, compliant individuals of the carbohydrate-supplemented group received daily an additional 3.5±1.4 g carbohydrate·kg body mass(-1). Compliant individuals of the carbohydrate supplemented group reported 18% lower ratings of perceived exertion during the time trial at altitude, and completed it 17% faster than the placebo group (both p<0.05 by t-test). However, cardiovascular parameters obtained during submaximal exercise and spontaneous physical activity on rest days were similar between the two groups (all p>0.05 by analysis of variance). This study utilized testing protocols of specific relevance to high altitude sojourners, including the highest mountaineering time trial completed to date at altitude. Chronic carbohydrate supplementation reduced ratings of perceived exertion and improved physical performance, especially during prolonged and higher intensity exercise tasks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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