Does Carb-Loading Really Work?


Let us begin by considering what really carb-loading is. Often referred to as carbohydrate loading, it is a diet that helps to improve the amount of fuel stored in the muscles of the body of an athlete before a high endurance sports event.

Energy Boost

Carbohydrate loading helps you to take in an extra amount of energy which would help you during the event and replenishes your body when you run out of energy. It is an important custom for the athletes to try on different diets while turning and then opting for the best one and the one which works for them in the best possible manner.

The major reason for carbohydrate loading diet is to provide for you during the event in such a way that it leaves you less fatigued and thus improving your athletic performance before the event. Carbohydrate loading diet works best for those who are endurance athletes otherwise for the rest of the athletes, they might not need it.

Nutritional Value

Carbohydrates are an important part of one’s diet; these are also referred to as sugars starches. These are the prime energy sources for your body. During the digestion our body converts carbohydrates into sugar which is then transferred to your blood stream thus providing energy to your body. Your muscles store energy in the form of glycogen.

As you exert yourself in some physical exercise this glycogen is used up to provide you with energy. When the body runs out of glycogen it becomes fatigued. Taking in a lot of carbohydrates replenish the amount of glycogen stored and keeps you going through the event.

When to Load

A carbohydrate loading is usually started two weeks before the event. Make out at least 50 to 55 percent your calories just carbohydrates while taking in reasonable amounts of protein and fat. Just three or four days before the event increase your intake of carbohydrates to about 70 percent.

Moreover take in reasonable amounts of fat and do not put a lot of strain on your body, you do not want to waste the energy that you are storing up for the event. Carbohydrates loading diet helps you to perform better during the event and help you to feel less fatigued during the event.

This diet might not work well for all since it all depends on the individuals who are taking it.

It is important not to forget to replenish the amount of glycogen that you have lost during the event thus, even after the event try to consume some carbohydrates so as to provide for the starch and sugar your body has recently lost.

Things to Make Sure

Skipping Carb Depletion Phase: This is the one area that many folks never hear about because we want to get straight to the part about eating! Here is the process as described by The Complete Nutrition Guide for Triathletes. Seven days prior to the event do a long or strenuous workout which will deplete your body of glucose. For the next 3 days maintain a lower Carb diet of 35-50% of total calories. For the final 2 days prior to the race switch to 75% of calories from carbohydrates, while dramatically decreasing overall work volume (the other 25% is largely protein)

Simple Carbs:

We’ve heard it a million times “not all Carbs are created equal” and yet somehow in the lead up to race week we toss aside our normally good habits for junk food Carbs. I believe this is because nerves and emotions are running high.  Ideal Carb loading foods include potatoes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains – a huge pasta dinner only works for a few folks.

Loading Needlessly:

If you are doing a 5K, stop green lighting a week of Carb binging. If you are doing a race that will take you longer than 90 minutes, then you can start to add in extra Carbs per the above process.

Loading more and burning less:

Carbohydrate loading needs only to be done for about 2 days prior to the race, not 7. We want a week of morning bagels and afternoon granola bowls, but in reality you only need a couple of days after the depletion mentioned in mistake #1 to optimally fuel your muscles.

Weight gain freak out: Carbs make you retain water…this is actually a blessing on race day to help you prevent dehydration! So just remember you’ll be losing most of that water and if you’ve been loading on good Carbs you haven’t put on any actual fat in those 2 short days.

Skipping Loading: Nerves result in stomach issues for a lot of runners/triathletes, so they try to skip out or skimp on race morning fuel. You must give your muscles this last boost of glucose to help you prevent energy lulls, mood swings and obviously fatigue.

High Sugar Pre-Race Fuel: When you eat a meal high in sugar it releases insulin, which tells the body to start storing glucose for later because it has sugar available. So all that carbo-loading is now being stored in your muscles instead of freely available when you start the race. Aim for 1-3 grams (depending on how far in advance you eat) of high quality Carbs, low fat and low fiber – oatmeal with banana or yogurt with fruit.

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