As a runner, you know the importance of glycogen stores (reservoir of glucose) that are vital to support the performance levels. Carbohydrate loading refers to a strategy that involves consuming higher than usual amount of carbohydrates, 1-4 days prior to the event to maximise glycogen stores. This can help fuel the run and prevent you from hitting the wall. Muscle glycogen levels are normally in the range of 100-120 mmol/kg ww (wet weight). With carb-loading (up to 70% of your daily calories), your glycogen levels can increase to around 150-200 mmol/kg ww. Check out this simple guide on carbohydrate loading.1,2
Simple Guide to Carbohydrate Loading
Carbohydrate loading can extend the duration of exercise by approximately 20% and improve performance over a set distance by 2-3%.3
Three tips on effective carb loading:4-6
Fuel it enough
Increase your carbohydrate intake to about 10-12 g/kg of body weight (70% of your daily calories), 3-4 days before the event. The easiest way to achieve a simple, successful carb load is to include carbohydrate-rich foods at every meal and snack. Some examples are given in the table below.6
Watch for other macros
Avoid foods high in fat such as fried foods and limit high protein foods such as meat just before the event, as they will fill you up making it difficult to consume enough carbohydrates. Opt for low fibre foods, as too much fibre may cause stomach upset.
Relax and Rest completely the day before your big event. Eating enough carbohydrates in combination with tapering activity helps improve glycogen stores.
Still not sure on what to eat? Have a look at this simple meal plan that would be helpful for you.
The following meal plan can be used as a reference for a 70kg athlete targeting at carbohydrate loading:
Coaching Association of Canada. Carbohydrate loading – Is it for you? ON, Canada: Sports Nutrition Advisory Committee; 2011.
Australian Sport Commission. Carbohydrate loading. Bruce, Australia: AIS Sports Nutrition; 2009.
Mc Kune A. Carbohydrate loading and exercise performance. Washington, DC, USA: Spring; 2007
Synder CV. Carbohydrate loading: What’s an athlete to do? Ohio, USA: Cleveland clinic; 2011
Wheat foods Council. Healthy carb-loading maximises energy for the big race. CO, USA: Wheat foods council; 2015.
Gopalan C, Rama Sastri BV, Balasubramanian SC. Nutritive value of Indian foods. Hyderabad: National Institute of Nutrition, ICMR. 2012; 47-58.