A carb-loading diet is appropriate for endurance athletes pre-competition. Marathoners and distance cyclists need extra carbohydrates to fill their glycogen stores so that they have lasting energy during a race. Usually, a carb-loading diet commences a few days prior to a competition that will last more than 90 minutes. An endurance athlete cannot rely on pasta alone for carb loading, but should look to a variety of high-quality, high-carbohydrate foods.
Purpose and Strategy
During normal training, as long as 65 to 70 percent of your daily calories come from carbohydrates, focused carbohydrate loading is probably not necessary, notes renowned coach Chris Carmichael. In the week prior to competition, for about three days, you should consume a diet composed of 50 percent carbohydrates while you train normally, and then increase to 70 to 75 percent carbohydrates and reduce your workout intensity during the three days just prior to the event. The theory is that this depletes your glycogen, or fuel, stores slightly during the first few days and then when you consume a greater number of carbohydrates just prior to the competition, your body compensates by ensuring to store extra energy to make up for its perceived deficit.
Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, sugary drinks, honey, jam and candy, contain significant carbohydrates, but offer little nutrition. You should limit these types of carbohydrates on a carb-loading diet. Too much sugar can cause blood sugar highs and lows that inhibit performance by causing energy crashes.
Whole grains, fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates along with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These foods also offer fiber, which helps prevent constipation and keeps your cholesterol in check. These more complex carbohydrates also digest more slowly than simple, refined carbs, so you experience steadier energy levels. Whole wheat pasta, apples, bananas, corn, beans, 100 percent whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal and berries are all good carbohydrate choices for a carb-loading plan.
While whole grains, fruits and vegetables are quality carbohydrate sources, the increased fiber intake may affect your digestive tract. In the immediate day or two before your event, limit your intake of gas-producing, high-carb foods such as broccoli, cabbage, bran and beans. These foods could cause loose stools and uncomfortable bloating, which could hamper your performance.
- Australian Institute of Sport: Carbohydrate Loading
- Food for Fitness; Chris Carmichael
- Hal Higdon: Nutrition
- a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and blueberries image by David Smith from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.