Carbo-loading (or carb-loading) is short for carbohydrate loading. It’s a very common term among athletes today but was coined by avid endurance athletes. The concept is simple in that you allow your body to store extra glycogen and water within the muscles to be utilized when your body is exerting itself. The concept has been around for years.
Decades ago, distance runners realized that when they ate a large carbohydrate meal such as a large pasta dinner the night before their event, they had longer levels of endurance. This led to better performance. In contrast, high protein meals offer little in terms of energy and carbohydrates, so athletes also noticed that a heavy protein meal would slow them down and leave them feeling depleted in terms of endurance and energy.
Here are a few tips to help you carbo-load for your next event.
Focus on foods that are primarily simple carbohydrates and easy to digest. These include cereals, fruits, juices, breads, rice, plain baked potatoes and pasta with tomato sauce. Stay away from foods that may be high in carbohydrates but also high in fat and sodium, such as pizza, donuts, pasta with fatty meats and cheese. Too much sodium will cause your body to store fluids outside your muscles, which will slow you down.
Drink extra fluids. A good sign that you are hydrating properly is that you will be urinating every few hours and it will be on the clearer side. Fruit juices are a good choice as they are easy to digest and also contain vitamins that are beneficial to your body. Start drinking the fluids at least 36 hours before your event. I usually drink 2-4 quarts of apple juice 24 hours before my event. Don’t try to do it a few hours before your event. Also, save the sports drinks for your event or start them a couple hours before your event.
Take it easy at least 48-72 hours before your event. This will allow your body to load the fluid, glycogen, and carbohydrates without your body utilizing them. Your body can’t effectively carbo-load if you continue to train intensely. You will usually gain a few pounds of water when you carbo-load properly.
Always experiment with carbo-loading well before your event. You don’t want to realize on the day of your event that your stomach can’t tolerate one of the foods you choose to load on, such as bananas. Try loading a couple times several weeks before your event so that you will have time to make adjustments.
Most successful endurance athletes have a high carbohydrate breakfast a few hours before they compete. Popular choices are pancakes, oatmeal, juice, bagels, bananas, etc. Protein is very hard to digest; a poached egg or two is a choice some athletes prefer if they want a little protein with their breakfast.
Remember, everybody is different. What works for one person may not work for you. These are some basic rules, but make sure that you experiment with your body and your workouts before your event. Max Muscle stores have some great products that will help you carb up. You can even learn how to make your own sports drinks to consume as you participate in your event. CarboMax is an easy-to-digest pre-event carbohydrates. So stop by your local Max Muscle store and let us help you get ready for your next event.
By Joe Wells, CEO, Max Muscle Nutrition