Carbohydrate Loading

Carbohydrate Loading

Carbohydrate Loading is a relatively new concept. Introduced by Swedish researchers in the 1930s, it was not until the 1960s that the Swedes developed the concept into a week-long regime. Their method combined diet and training in such a way that the body build up 2-3 times its normal stores of glycogen, which gave athletes significantly greater endurance.

Athletes who repeatedly practiced the early form of Carbohydrate Loading found that they suffered depression, lethargy, loss of muscle tissue and some experienced chest pains and abnormal electrocardiographs.

The Modern Carbohydrate Loading Technique

Recently, American physiologists have modified the Carbohydrate Loading regime and have overcome some of the side-effects. Begin the regime early in the week prior to competition:

Stage 1: Gradually reduce your level of training while maintaining your normal (moderate-to-high) carbohydrate diet. This holds your glycogen level relatively steady.

Stage 2: For the three or four days prior to competition, reduce your training even further. At the same time, increase your carbohydrate intake to 70-85% of energy.

Carbohydrate Loading does not mean that you should stuff yourself with food. What it does mean is that you should be extremely conscious of what you eat and should mainly eat foods that contain carbohydrate. Carbohydrate-rich drinks give you extra carbohydrate in an easily digestible form.

As competition day draws closer, your diet should contain more refined carbohydrate (including simple sugars), and you should cut down on foods high in fiber. This will help you reduce the bulk of your diet while allowing your carbohydrate intake to rise. Remember, it is vital that you 'fluid load' as well, and drink as much fluid (not alcoholic!) as you can in the few days leading up to competition.

By following this regime your glycogen stores should be et least doubled by the time you are ready to compete - and you should not experience the side-effects connected with earlier loading techniques.

Should I Use Carbohydrate Loading ?

Carbohydrate Loading is only recommended and is only beneficial if you participate in endurance events lasting longer than about 90 minutes, or if you take part in multiple-event competitions over a sustained period.

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