|Carbohydrate loading helps athletes improve
Maggie McDaris is a dietetic intern at MUSC
for a big endurance event should develop a strategy for carbohydrate
loading to enhance performance.
loading involves the increased consumption of carbohydrates,
which means making them a greater percentage of the total calories, in
preparation for an endurance event. It also involves a gradual decrease
of training in the days and weeks before competition. Carbohydrate
loading ensures that the body’s glycogen stores are topped off before
an event. Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate found in the
liver and skeletal muscles that provides energy during exercise.
While performing high-intensity exercise, the body can deplete between
38 percent and 88 percent of its muscle glycogen stores, according to
Nancy Clark’s “Sports Nutrition Guidebook.” Glycogen also helps
maintain normal blood glucose levels and hydration status during an
endurance event. Three grams of water (about 0.1ounce) are stored per
gram of glycogen stored.
Carbohydrate loading is not for everyone or every type of athletic
event. Carbohydrate loading is most beneficial in well-trained athletes
competing in endurance events lasting 90 minutes or more. Marathon
runners (full and half), distance swimmers, triathletes, cyclists,
cross-country skiers, and professional soccer players are examples of
athletes who would benefit from carbohydrate loading. Football,
basketball and volleyball players, weight lifters and recreational
runners would not benefit from carbohydrate loading strategies.
Current research has shown that an athlete training for a
high-endurance event should consume a high carbohydrate diet (55 to 60
percent of total calories from carbohydrates) on a daily basis in order
to replace muscle glycogen lost in training. The actual carbohydrate
loading process should begin three days before an event accompanied by
a tapering of training that begins two weeks prior to the event. During
the three-day loading period, carbohydrate consumption should increase
to about 70 percent of total daily calories. When carbohydrate
loading, focus on whole grains instead of refined sources of
carbohydrate such as sugary breakfast cereals, white rice, tortillas,
and French fries.
Below are seven
steps to successful carbohydrate loading
1. Carbohydrate load daily to replenish stores lost in training. A
general rule of thumb is to consume 55 percent of total daily calories
from carbohydrates (or three to five grams of carbohydrates per pound
of body weight).
2. Taper training. Current research suggests that a 10 to 13 day taper
is more effective than a seven-day taper.
3.Eat enough protein. Athletes should consume between 0.8 and 1.0 grams
of protein per kilogram of body weight.
4. Choose carbohydrates wisely. Avoid foods that are high in both
carbohydrate and fat. Don’t load up on refined bread products or fruit
and avoid alcohol and unfamiliar foods.
5. Plan meals and meal times carefully. Consume a light, familiar
breakfast on event day to maintain blood sugar and prevent hunger.
6. Choose fiber-rich foods. Carbohydrate loading on low-fiber foods can
increase the likelihood for constipation and gastrointestinal distress
during an event. Instead, consume more complex carbohydrates such
as whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables and oatmeal.
7. Drink more water. Proper carbohydrate loading should be accompanied
by a two-to-four-pound water-weight gain. This practice is also
important as fiber intake increases to avoid bloating and constipation.
Friday, Oct. 1, 2010