by Louise | March 20th, 2012 | Eating Tips

“Carbo-loading” is a term typically used by endurance athletes, which most commonly refers to eating increased amounts of carbohydrates starting three days before an endurance event, specifically a competition. Most commonly, carbo-loading comes in the form of a “pasta party” the night before a big race, such as the huge annual pasta party held the day before the Boston Marathon.

Why carbo-load? In endurance events, your body starts to use up all of its glycogen stores, which are its main source of efficient energy. By carbo-loading the night before, an athlete is trying to maximize his or her glycogen stores in order to delay the onset of fatigue that comes with glycogen storage depletion. For most, carbo-loading starts several days before a race.

Doing it right. Some people interpret “carbo-loading” as “pigging-out,” and it’s truly not the same thing. When carbo-loading one wants to, well, load up on carbohydrates. Implicitly, the point is that the calories should come mostly in the form of carbohydrates, not fat or protein. This means that eating an extra slice of chocolate cake is not an effective means of carbo-loading. Here are a few other tips for carbo-loading:

  • Keep your size in mind. A typical 150-pound runner needs about 600 grams (that’s 2400 calories) of carbs per day, for the three days leading up to a race, in order to maximize the glycogen stores. After that, the benefits of increased carbohydrate intake taper off. As some point, more is not better.
  • Keep fruits in vegetables in mind. Sometimes people get caught up in the idea of pasta or bread as carbohydrate sources, but fruits and starchy veggies can also pack a punch as far as calories are concerned (and nutrients as well).
  • Keep it coming. What this means is that you don’t have (nor is it really recommended) to exhaust yourself eating an enormous portion. You can continuously snack throughout the day. If you’re getting tired of chewing (as odd as it sounds), you can always drink your calories in the form of low-fat smoothies, juices, or whatever you feel comfortable with.
  • Keep it low on the fiber front. Especially on the day before race day, you don’t want to be consuming food too high in fiber, or you will still be feeling heavy (and sluggish) the next day. If you’re looking for a midnight snack before an early race, try something “light” such as apple sauce.
  • Keep it simple. This is not the time to try the new Indian buffet dinner down the street. Stick with what you know sits well.

Happy carbo-loading!

  1. […] the race. To make sure my energy levels are near %100 the morning of the race, I will make sure to carbo-load and hydrate well on the days that precede it. I will also make sure to take my aerobic effort on […]

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.