Fueling up properly before long-distance endurance endeavors >90 minutes with a high-carbohydrate eating plan will ensure maximum results during the event. Since glycogen (stored carbohydrate in muscle) levels decrease quickly during moderate to intense exercise, the body must be given ample carbohydrates (carb) in the days leading up to the event to adequately stock the muscles.
The When and The How: Proper Regimen
1. Begin by increasing carb intake to 8-12g/kg body weight for the first two of the three days prior to the event/race.
2. During this increase period, decrease training two to three days prior to the event so that your muscles have adequate time to become fully fueled.
3. Emphasize complex carbs (fruits and vegetables) and distribute them at all meals and snacks during the day, while avoiding simple carbs (sugars).
4. Resume your normal intake of carbs the day before the race or event (typically 5-8 g/kg body weight).
The idea is not to increase total calories, but to adjust intake to result in a greater percentage of calories from carbohydrate vs. protein or fat compared to normal.
Common Mistakes with Carb Loading
· Neglecting the exercise taper. Failing to back off training for the 1-3 days before competition may compromise carb loading.
· Fear of weight gain. Carb loading may cause body mass to increase by up to 3-5lbs; this is extra water stored in muscles with the glycogen (stored carb). It will help delay dehydration during the event or race.
· Excessive fiber intake. It may necessary to limit fiber consumption in order to avoid stomach discomfort.
· Consuming too many high-fat foods. Aim for a combination of high-carb, low-fat options.
· Cutting out protein. A low-fat protein source should accompany carb-rich meals.
· Not practicing an eating plan prior to competition. Rehearsing carb loading on an off week ensures that you know which foods give you enough energy and make you feel your best.
Sample menu for 145lb athlete
1 cup OJ
Black coffee or tea
Breakfast burrito (one 8-inch flour tortilla + 1 scrambled egg + 2 egg whites + 1/2 cup black beans + 2 Tbsp salsa)
1 cup low-fat milk
1 cup of whole-grain cereal
Water or unsweetened beverage
3/4 cup baked potato wedges with 1 Tbsp ketchup
Roast beef sandwich (one 2.5 oz whole-grain bun + 4 oz lean roast beef + 2 slices tomato + 1/4 cup shredded romaine lettuce + 1.5 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese + 1 tsp yellow mustard)
1 cup cantaloupe
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 oz whole wheat crackers
1 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup flavored white rice with 0.5 oz slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups steamed broccoli
Stuffed, broiled salmon filet (5 oz cooked salmon, 1 oz bread stuffing mix, 1 Tbsp chopped onions, 1 Tbsp diced celery, 2 tsp canola oil)
After Dinner Snack
1/4 cup hummus
4-inch pita bread
3/4 cup blueberries