With the explosion of running road races popping up all over town and more new runners hitting the streets, the popular question always arises: to carb load or not? Most athletic individuals are already aware of the importance of carbohydrate in a training diet but who can benefit from a true pre-race carb load? Let me help you decide if its of benefit to you and your up-coming event!
Carbohydrate loading is based on the theory of super compensating our muscle glycogen stores (or loading with carbohydrates) in the days before an endurance event and has been studied since the early sixties. It has been proven that, with a moderate to high glycogen load, trained athletes can increase their muscle glycogen in the days leading up to a race. But is it for everyone? Athletes who are doing exercise lasting 90 minutes or longer at a moderate to high intensity are most likely to benefit.
Carbohydrate loading is not for everyday training, and people with diabetes should not undertake this strategy without professional nutrition supervision.
How Do I Effectively Carbohydrate Load?
Carbohydrate loading involves eating a higher than usual carbohydrate intake for 1–4 days prior to an event, while tapering training. Effective intakes of carbohydrate have been shown at 7–12g/kg BW/day. For example, if you weigh 120lbs (55kg), you would need to consume 385–660g of carbs per day (depending on the intensity and duration of your activity).
This extra supply of carbohydrate has been demonstrated to improve endurance exercise by allowing athletes to exercise at their optimal pace for a longer time. It is estimated that carbohydrate loading can improve performance over a set distance by 2–3%. In order to consume the appropriate amount of carbohydrate, it is necessary to cut back on fibre and make use of concentrated sources of carbohydrate such as sugar, cordial, soft drink, sports drinks, jam, honey, jelly, and tinned fruit. Athletes who include too many high fibre foods in their carbohydrate loading menu may suffer stomach upset or find the food too bulky to consume.
Sample of a one Day Carb Load Meal Plan
Source: PowerFUEL Food, Dufour, A, 2013
A Word of Caution:
Carbohydrate loading may result in some weight gain (1-2 lb) which can be uncomfortable come race time! Try this nutrition strategy on your long training runs; NOT for the first time in the week before a major event!
Need More Information?
Angela can help you achieve an optimal sport diet appropriate for you and your training goals with her NEW Book: PowerFUEL Food, Planning Meals for Maximum Performance. This book is available at all Chapters/Coles/Indigo locations across Canada and online, as well as the MSVU bookstore and local health and medical clinics throughout Halifax Regional Municipality. Or simply visit www.nutritioninaction.ca and order your own personally signed copy!
Excerpt taken from PowerFUEL Food: Planning Meals for Maximum Performance, Angela Dufour, 2013