Carbo-loading: Myth or Reality?
I’ve been around athletes for a while. I even work with one at the same company. And before any competition, this coworker of mine ingested large amounts of carbohydrates. I asked him why and he explained, when taking part in endurance competitions, athletes need to maximize the storage of glycogen in their muscles. When they put their body to work for over 90 minutes, they need all the energy they can get. So athletes consume large amounts of carbs to make sure they don’t run out of fuel. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s not that simple.
How to do it right- In order to work, carbo-loading has to be done properly. You can’t eat carbs just anytime you want. And you can’t just eat anything you want. To get the best results, low glycemic foods are the main highlight for this practice. Low glycemic foods mean fruits, vegetables, whole wheat pasta, and grains.
Timing is also crucial- Carbo-loading should be done at least a few hours before a major sports event. Carbo intake just before a soliciting event or workout can compromise the performance. Take into consideration that the digestive system is seriously slowed down when ingesting carbohydrates. Many marathon runners or triathlon participants have pasta meals the evening before the race. Others start with the carbo-loading a week before the event.
Simply eating carbs won’t cut it- It’s a fact that muscles also use protein to function properly. That is why carbo-loading should include proteins as well. For those who would rather not combine animal protein with carbs, they can resort vegetables high in protein such as say, broccoli or beans.
To train or not to train- Training is also a part of preparing for a major sports event and shouldn’t be skipped. However, the training plan prior to a competition should be lighter than usual. Coaches also recommend that athletes should take a break from training two or three days before the big day. That gives their body time to rest and prepare for major stress and pressure. Some coaches recommend normal dieting and light training the week before a big event. The day before the race, the athlete should perform a very short high intensity work out an then ingest 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of lean mass over the next 24 hours.
From my experience, my best carbo-loading was done with fruits, bananas to be precise. They are light and consistent, and keep the hunger away for a while. Eating pasta or bakery just before or even hours away from a workout made me tired and irritated. So I’m done with that. Carbo-loading can work wonders if done properly. It can make you feel light and full of energy. And when you’re full of energy, confidence simply comes along.