Carbo Loading | What Does It Mean?

Monday, September 05, 2016

Carbohydrate loading is a way to produce increased muscle glycogen stores just before a tough athletic competition.  To achieve this you need to taper off your training 1 – 4 days before the event and eat a special, high-carb low-fat diet.

Does carbo-loading improve performance?

Clinical tests have proved that an extra supply of carbs improves endurance by helping athletes keep up their best pace for a longer time.  Scientists estimate that carbo-loading can improve performance over a set distance by 2-3%.

Who should carbo-load?

Any male athlete who trains consistently at a moderate to high intensity for 90-minutes or more will benefit from carbo-loading.  Endurance sports like cycling, marathons, long-distance triathlons and distance swimming benefit most from carbo-loading. 

Carbo-loading works better for male athletes and more research is being done into why it doesn’t benefit women endurance athletes in the same way.

What are the common mistakes when carbo-loading?

Research shows that many athletes who try to use carbo-loading fail to get it right and here’s how to avoid some common mistakes.  

  • Not resting before a competition.  Carbo-loading only works if you reduce training in the days before an event.
  • Not eating enough carbs, so it’s best to consult a sports nutrition expert or use a carb-counter.
  • Eating too much high fibre food in the carbo-loading diet period leads to stomach upsets.  You need to cut out fibre and use carb sources like sugar, sports’ drinks, soft drinks, jam, honey, jelly and tinned fruit.
  • Carbo-loading increases your body mass by about 2 kg, owing to the extra muscle glycogen and water.  Some athletes are so worried about this weight gain that they don’t carbo-load correctly.
  • Don’t use carbo-loading as an excuse to eat high-fat foods, because that'll stop you consuming enough carbs and create unwanted body fat.  You must stick to high-carb, low-fat foods.

These days, we know that you don’t need to start your carbo-loading by fasting or drastically cutting down your carbohydrate intake beforehand.  So, you’ll find it easy to do for that extra performance boost that could make you No. 1 through the finishing line!

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