Carb-loading and Its Common Mistakes
Commonly abbreviated as carb-loading, carbohydrate loading is popular amongst athletes and sports or fitness enthusiasts. Before a marathon event, like other endurance events, carb-loading drives the success of the race. In layman’s terms, carb-loading is simply consuming large amounts of carbohydrates a night before the race. But satisfying your guilty pleasures as an athlete trumps the true essence of carb loading.
Contrary to eating a large bowl of pasta before a race, carb-loading is a scientific and systematic approach whose course runs several weeks before the competition. The purpose, thereof, is to maximize glycogen storage in muscles before a marathon or longer races.
Importance of carb-loading before a race
In endurance events, the main source of energy is muscle glycogen. As such, the performance of an athlete with depleting levels of glycogen might be in jeopardy. Hence, the total endurance potential increases with the level of stored muscle glycogen.
Carb-loading before an endurance event
More carb-loading researchers have emerged over the years since the relationship between endurance events, and carb-loading was discovered. The traditional and the often popular method was tapered training and the gradual increments of carbohydrate consumption before the event. Years after, a similar but shorter method emerged running a course up to 6 days. Some other methods focus on the last 24 hours before the competition by maximizing an optimum amount of glycogen before the game.
Nevertheless, the best carb-loading method will depend on your training, type of event, and the total number of events spanning a year. That’s why you’ll see that some athletes adhere to stick training modules before the day of the competition while others opt for the long taper before the event.
In the spirit of enlightenment, here are the common mistakes associated with carb loading
Skipping the carb depletion phase
This step is often omitted because many athletes want to rush into the aspect of eating almost by proxy. According to the Complete Nutrition Guide for Triathletes, the process involves:
Deplete the current glucose level in your body by engaging in strenuous workout activities seven days before the event.
The next 3 days should involve maintaining a lower carb diet of total calories between 35% and 50%.
Maintaining a ratio 1:3 of calories from proteins (25%) and carbohydrates (75%), you want to increase your calorie consumption two days before the race.
Even though the popular saying “not all carbs are the same” is a mantra, many athletes give in to the temptation of eating ‘junk carbs’ in the week leading up to the race. Indeed, the surge of emotions is often the culprit for sugary cravings but it is recommended to reign in the urge until after the race. Hand-in-hand with a green smoothie sugary treats are amazing post-race refuel options. The race week requires complete dedication to the carb-loading cause. When carb-loading, the best options range from a tiny potato to vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The ‘pasta in a bowl’ arrangement only works for a handful of athletes.
As a caveat, if you are prone to runner trots, foods containing high fibre may be unsuitable for you. But sweet potatoes and sourdough bread paired with honey, which is both lower in fibre, are great substitutes.
If the race exceeds 90 minutes, the simple guide above will work for you. Carb-bingeing a few days before the race will only get you into trouble. For instance, a few chunks in sweet potatoes in a meal will suffice for the glycogen stores in athletes on the low carb diet.
Loading too long
Carb-loading spans about 14 days, but the most important days, which are often emphasized, are the 48 hours before the race. Once you have made the mistake of Skipping the carb depletion phase, you’ll only need two days to get the recommended 75% dose of carbohydrate calories to feel the effects.
Skipping the last load
Many runners tend to suffer from stomach issues, which lure them into skimping the much-needed fuel in the morning of the event. What you should know is that your muscles require the final boost of glucose to prevent fatigue, mood swings, and energy lulls. After eating a sugar-rich meal, the body produces insulin, which signals the body to store glucose because there is enough sugar available for energy at that time.
Literally, it means energy is being stored during your 2 days of carb-loading, which becomes available during the race. Depending on the time you eat, opt for about 3g of high-quality carbs, low fibre, and low-fat foods – an example is and fruit combo of oatmeal and banana.