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Truth behind carbo loading for endurance events

Posted May 06 2010 10:54am

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By groovygreentea at 2010-05 Image Hosted by

Everyone participating in an endurance event wants to start feeling mentally positive, energetic, and strong. By having a nutrition game plan down before the pre-event dinner you will be reinforcing one of the most important elements of training, carbo loading. Carbohydrates are an endurance athletes best fuel source. Studies have shown that after 90 minutes of continuous cardio effort muscle glycogen stores are essential to your performance.

By eating a healthy diet full of complex carbohydrates such as grains, fruit, and vegetables routinely your body will store about 2,000 calories of glycogen in your muscles and liver. (Eberle, 2007). Carbo loading becomes essential in boosting storage supplies for the first two hours of your event. Proper loading is acquired on a daily basis and the closer you get to the event the more important your diet will become for performance.  Start your run fully loaded as proper nutrition can improve your endurance by 3%.

How does an endurance participant correctly carbo-load? The best way is to make sure your body has all the carbohydrate supplies necessary for fuel by increasing your complex carbohydrate intake three to four days prior to your event. Note that this is also the time of your taper so you will not be burning as many calories.

The point is not to eat excessive calories but to eat better carbohydrates with every meal. Sometimes increasing the carbo load also means gaining a few pounds before the event. Carbohydrate diets promote water retention or higher volumes of water mass within your muscular cells. Often, the weight gain is temporary water weight as opposed to fat weight.

In conclusion carbo loading will make a big difference on your event performance. "While the typical athlete has about 80 to 120 mmol glycogen/kg muscle, a carbo loaded athlete can have about 200 mmol." (Clark, N., The Athlete's Kitchen, 2006).

That does not mean eat all your carbo calories the night before your event but rather increase your healthy carbohydrates two to three days in advance.

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