What Is Carbo Loading?


What is carbohydrate loading?

We’ve all been told to eat a large bowl of pasta the night before a bit race or training session, but why ? Does it work ? Are there better alternatives ?

The first place to start is to understand the basics of carbohydrates .

There are two types :


  • Complex (or starches). These include grains and vegetables.
  • Simple Sugars and sweets including fruit and dairy produce.


Carbohydrates are your muscles' main source of fuel. Stored carbohydrates are called glycogen. Your muscles can only store small amounts of glycogen, and they can't borrow glycogen stores from other areas. Normally, this isn't a problem. But if you start exercising at high intensity and continue for more than 60 to 90 minutes, your muscles will run out of glycogen, greatly affecting your stamina and performance.

So how can we make our muscles store more ?

Well carbohydrate loading is an option. It will gradually force your body into storing more glycogen.

By eating significantly more carbohydrates you will fill your muscles with excess glycogen that can be used as fuel. This will delay the onset of fatigue.

In addition to this, tapering your exercise a short while before an event will stop you using up your glycogen. This allows the carbohydrate loading to make sure you are pushing your glycogen limit.

Should I carbo-load ?

This is quite a good question. Carbohydrate loading is not necessarily for everyone. The best guide would be if you are doing a session or race that lasts more than 90 minutes then “loading” might improve your overall performance.

Short races (5km runs, short distance swimming etc) do not really need carbo loading and would probably be wasted are you normal glycogen levels would be enough to fuel your muscles.

Things to watch out for

Sadly, as with most things there is a down side to loading. It’s up to you to decide what's best for your event. Carbohydrate loading helps your body store extra water and so weight gain mighty be an issue. Also paying attention to high fibre foods before an event is advisable as it may cause discomfort, gas and/or cramps.



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