So what exactly IS carb loading?

March 15, 2017

Carb loading: a strategy used by endurance athletes to maximize the storage of glycogen (energy) in the muscles and liver (according to Wikipedia).

 

Wikipedia is exactly right. Carb loading saturates your glycogen stores within the liver to improve endurance performance. It is a strategy that involves eating high amounts of carbohydrates prior to an event or competition while tapering off training. 

 

Do you need to carb load? The answer is, it depends. Every person is unique, so some questions I would consider would be: Are you fueling with carbs already? Can you eat during your race or event? Do you get faint or dizzy during training? Have you competed in a similar event before without carb loading? Will you be competing for more than 90 minutes? The bottom line is, if you are finding you are low in energy, getting confused or dizzy during training, and can't eat during your sporting event, then I would highly encourage trying carb loading. Is it necessary? In many cases, yes. Some people find it very effective, some people find it somewhat effective, and some people hate it! Like with many changes in routine, the body needs time to adjust, and this makes listening to your body extremely important extremely important. Lastly, if you are considering trying carb loading, test it out before competiting or during smaller events. Changing your entire regime right before a compeition or event is not recommended.

 

So lets get started! How do you carb load? What are some good sources of carbohydrates? 

What are some of the best carbs to carb load with?

 

NOTE: you want to avoid high fructose corn syrup, fruits, and sucrose as a source of carbohydrate if possible. The best sources of carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates. These consist of whole grains and whole vegetables.

 

Simple Carbohydrates VS Complex Carbohydrates

So what can you expect as an athlete if you are interested in carb loading?

 

If you are a long distance athlete, a general macronutrient guideline to consuming proteins vs carbs vs fats should look something like this during training: 20-30% protein ; 55-65% carbohydrates ; 15-20% fats. This is important to know when reviewing what an effective carb loading schedule will look like. Carb loading schedules will be different for different athletes depending on the type of sport, the duration, and other factors. The schedule below is geared towards endurance runners (long distance).

 

Day 1: PREPARATION.

1. Decrease carbohydrate consumption by hald or 1/3 of normal consumption (use ratio given above as a guideline). Do high intensity exercise for 1.5-3 hours that works the upper and lower body evenly: cardio and weight training combination works best here

2. Increase sodium intake

3. Increase water intake (since you are increasing your sodium intake this is VIP)

4. Increase protein (to prevent muscle breakdown) by at least 50 g a day

Day 2: Repeat Day 1

Day 3: Repeat Day 1

Day 4: Repeat Day 1

 

Geez, being an athlete is work!

 

Day 5: LOADING. 

1. Reduce sodium intake

2. Increase carbohydrate intake to 80% of daily calories, with 10% protein and 10% fat intake

3. Avoid high fructose corn syrup, fruits, and sucrose

4. Reduce water intake to approximately 50% of what you would normalle drink

5. Don't train

Day 6: LOADING, repeat Day 5

Day 7: LOADING, repeat Day 5

1. Increase water consumption if doing endurance sports

2. Take electrolyte 24 hours before event.

Day 8: EVENT/ COMPETITION DAY

 Top 10 Complex Carbohydrates

(Gluten-free, and in the order they came to my head)

 

1. Oats

- You can get them gluten-free (I use Bob's Red Mill)

- High in iron 

- Excellent source of fiber

 

2. Rice: brown, wild

- Gluten-free grain

- High in fiber

- Source of minerals

 

3. Pasta: gluten-free (avoid corn), whole grain

- Easy to cook

- Convenient and available most places

- Source of fiber

 

4. Bread (gluten-free or whole grain)

- Convenient, easy to make in the morning and on the go

- Source of minerals

- Source of fiber

 

5. Quinoa

- Gluten-free grain

- High in fiber 

- Source of protein

 

6. Millet

- Gluten-free grain

- Source of B vitamins and minerals

- Can be popped like popcorn and used as a snack

 

7. Potato: sweet, white 

- Source of vitamins and minerals

- Convenient and widely available most places

- Gluten-free

 

8. Amaranth or Teff (ancient gluten-free grains)

- Gluten-free grain

- Source of protein and fiber

- Excellent source of minerals

 

9. Raw vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, carrot

- Excellent source of vitamins and minerals

- Excellent source of fiber

- Make great snacks

 

10. Squash: butternut, spaghetti, acorn, pumpkin

- Excellent source of vitamins and minerals

- Gluten-free

 

Source(s): IHN Course Notes 2016; Sports and Fitness Nutrition

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