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The Dummies Guide to Carbohydrate Loading

Posted Aug 08 2009 10:03pm
Fork_noodles So let' s say that you already know that carbohydrate loading might give you an added advantage, perhaps a little more "oomph" on race day, and maybe even a good excuse to eat more Italian...but how the heck do you do it without a calculator and ultra-accurate kitchen scale? Here are my super simple guidelines for a race week carbohydrate loading meal plan.

-1 week out from race (i.e. Sunday), perform a carbohydrate depleting workout that is minimally fueled (100-150 calories/hr).

Preferably, perform this workout in the morning. Fuel afterwards with a normal and large meal of 400-600 calories (mix whole protein and healthy carbohydrates), but then limit carbohydrate consumption to no more than 50% of the diet for the rest of this day. Got it? OK, now move on.

-For the next 2 days (i.e. Monday & Tuesday), continue to limit carbohydrate consumption to no more than 50% of the diet. Preferably consume the majority of the day' s carbohydrate intake after your race week workouts, and for added bonus, perform your race week workouts on an empty stomach in the morning before breakfast.

-Here comes the good part. On the next day (i.e. Wednesday), increase carbohydrate intake by 5-10%, but continue with the early morning workouts on an empty stomach. The whole reason for these is that they' ll increase the carbohydrate-grabbing enzymes in your muscles when you do eat after the workout.

-Continue to increase carbohydrate intake by 5-10% until race day. So the actual day prior to race day, you should be at 75-80% carbohydrate intake. Two days before the race, eat normally, but no workouts, or very light physical activity only. Also, two days before the race, begin to limit fiber intake to no more than two pieces of fruit per day, and no more than 1 large salad or two small salads. That means your carbs are coming from sources like dairy, nuts, seeds, cereals, whole grains, and breads.

Oatmeal-heart-400 -The day prior to race day, perform your final morning workout and fuel with a larger than normal breakfast. Be 100% full when breakfast is over, and emphasize complex carbohydrate consumption, like whole grain pancakes, a big bowl of meusli with yogurt, or piping hot oatmeal with almond butter. The rest of the day, fuel primarily with small and frequent snacks. Lunch should also be primarily carbohydrate based, like a panini or sandwich. Dinner can include an easily digested meat, like chicken or fish, combined with a small amount of vegetables and complex carbohydrate, like whole wheat pasta.

-On race morning, eat a 250-450 calorie meal of easily digested complex carbohydrates that are low in fiber, preferably 2-3 hours prior to the race. Sip 1 bottle of water for every hour leading up to the race, with a gradual tapering of water intake to small sips once the race start is 30 minutes away.

If done correctly, on race morning you won' t be puffed up like Popeye' s biceps, but you will feel just *slightly* bloated or "tight" from the carbohydrate consumption and water retention. That' s OK and it' s normal. 30 minutes into the race, you won' t notice, and 4 hours into the race you' ll be thanking that extra carbohydrate you have on board.

For more nutrition and training advice, you should check out Ben Greenfield' s books and DVD' s over at, or Ben' s book "Holistic Nutrition for Ironman Triathletes" at

Whoisben Ben Greenfield is the Renaissance man of the sport of triathlon.

He' s a fast triathlete, a coach, a personal trainer, and much more more.

We recommend that you surf on over to, for more great training advice.

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