If you are into endurance sport, at some stage you will hear the phrase “carbo-loading”. It sounds intriguing enough, so what exactly does it entail? We unpack what carbo-loading is and whether it can be beneficial to you.
What exactly is carbo-loading?
Simply put, it’s a strategy used primarily by endurance athletes to maximise the storage of glycogen (a fancy name for energy) in the muscles and liver. The objective of the carbo-loading being one of trying to improve on one's own performance by making use of these additional energy stores.
Is carbo-loading effective?
If you are participating in an event that lasts longer than 90 minutes (the time it takes to for the muscles being worked continuously to become depleted of their glycogen (energy stores) then carbo-loading might be something you want to try.
How do I go about carbo-loading?
There are a number of different carbo-loading strategies that one can follow. It is important to remember that carbo-loading works best for endurance events that span more than 90 minutes. For the average Joe Bob who is a little slower than the faster athletes, this may mean an event that spans longer than 2-3hrs. It’s not to be performed for the local park run or super sprint triathlon.
The period of loading the body with additional carbohydrate stores will also depend on your level of taper heading into the event you have ear-marked as the target.
1 Week Carbo-Loading protocol example
What can one expect when you carbo-load as above?
What can I eat as part of my carbo-loading strategy?
Besides consuming additional supplements in the form of carb-rich energy drinks which most of the sports nutritional manufacturers cater for, you can use a vast array of food sources to add to the carbo-loading protocol
10 Good Food Sources you can try that are rich in carbo-hydrates
Can Carbo-Loading be bad for me?
It won't be a problem for most athletes. However, there are instances where carbo-loading raises the insulin levels in the blood which can cause problems for people that are diabetic. For diabetics, carbo-loading should be undertaken with a cautious approach and perhaps with some additional medical advice – especially insulin users as this can cause hyperglycaemia before, during, and/or after exercise if adequate insulin is not taken as part of the loading process. A rule of thumb is to seek some sound additional medical advice before embarking on a carbo-loading protocol.