Otherwise known as carbohydrate loading, carb loading is a process which has commonly been adopted by runners who are about to take on longer distances.
In this article you will learn:
– What is carb loading
– Why do runners carb load
– What are the benefits of carb loading
– What to eat
Carb loading involves strategically increasing the level of glycogen that are stored in the muscles and liver when doing a race. This method is believed to enhance their ability and resilience when undertaking athletic activities that use up a lot of energy.
In this process, a runner will increase the consumption of food that contains carbohydrates while simultaneously reducing the levels of activities they undertake before a race. This process is also applied in healthcare. It is used by patients who are to go through a colorectal surgery to combat the effects of the body’s response to surgery stress.
There are a lot of questions about carb loading. How is it done? What are the benefits of going through it? Are there any risks involved?
The Origin of Carb Loading
The practice of carb loading goes back the 20th century. One of the founding developers is Gunvar Alhborg, a Swedish psychologist. Following research that he conducted, he concluded that there was a relationship between the levels of glycogen and how an athlete performs in an endurance event. He also discovered that the body has the ability to store more energy in the muscles and liver when high amounts of carbohydrates are consumed. Using the findings, Alhborg came up with a seven- day plan on how to increase carbohydrates intake for athletes so that they store more energy.
Understanding the concept
To understand how a carb loading strategy to increase energy works, we will begin by appreciating the essence of carbohydrates in the body. They are one of the nutrients that can be acquired when eating food. They are energy giving food. They are divided into simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates can be obtained from eating milk or even the food containing sugar. On the other hand, the complex ones include legumes, starchy vegetables, bread and pasta among others.
When they are consumed, they are usually digested and broken down into glucose, a form of energy that is required by the body. This glucose is usually stored in muscles and the liver in form of glycogen. When the body is involved in activities, it usually needs glucose. The stored glycogen is then converted into glucose so that it gives the body the energy that it requires.
However, the normal glucose that is in the body can only give the body energy for activity for ninety minutes. If one is involved in activities that take a longer time glucose is usually depleted by that time. At this point, the body starts converting stored fat into energy. This process usually uses more energy to convert the fats. As a result, one ends up feeling flat and fatigued. They might even experience pain the muscles.
For the above reason, people came up with this concept. That way, people such as athletes, swimmers, long distance cyclists and other can get more energy. It allows them to increase the number of carbohydrates which are stored in the body. Ultimately, more glucose is stored in the muscles and liver. In the event that an endurance athlete will be involved in an activity for a long period, they can then use up the extra glycogen that has been stored. That was the reasoning behind this whole process of increasing carb intake for athletes.
How to do it
Many people have come up with different ways to do carb loading, though they all involve two key common elements. First, it requires one to increase the carbohydrates which they are consuming. It is advised that you should increase it at least 5 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram that you weigh. The second element involves scaling back on training.
For this process to be effective it is recommended that one should start a week prior to the endurance event taking place. Between two to three days before the activity, one should increase their consumption of carbohydrates. However, one should not that they need to be careful with what choice of carbohydrate they will choose. It might be necessary to work with a dietitian who can properly guide you on how you can choose the right kind of food.
Not all carbohydrates are suitable. It is recommended that one should avoid those that have high fiber content. This is because food that has a lot of fiber content could cause indigestion. Therefore, it is important to choose food that has less fiber to avoid developing stomach problems. Choose food that has high carbohydrate but low fiber content. You should also consider food that has lower fat content.
The second element of doing this process correctly involves scaling back on exercises and activity. This is done in an attempt of ensuring that the glucose which is being stored on the body is saved up. If one is consuming the correct carbohydrates but at the same time working out as per their regular routine, they will not be able to save up on the energy that is required for the actual event. A trainer and a dietitian will come in handy at giving guidelines on how and when to scale back on the exercises so as to store more glucose in the muscles and liver.
It is important to note that this strategy does not mean that one should exclusively eat carbohydrates only. Another nutrient which can be beneficial to the diet of is protein. Proteins are essential towards muscle repair. Given that a lot of muscle is involved when working out and on the final endurance activity, they are susceptible to wear and tear.
Proteins will remedy this situation by ensuring repair and cell formation on the muscle. In addition, protein plays a role in slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates. How is this important? By slowing down the process of digestion of the proteins, it ultimately lowers the Glycemic Index. This is important as it inhibits the rate at which the body releases energy thus more will be stored.
We can, therefore, conclude that it is important to take carbohydrates in large amounts. At least half of your plate should have carbohydrates while proteins can take up a quarter of the plate. Vegetables can also be incorporated into the meals. This way, at least you are still obtaining other nutrients.
It is important to get the right amounts of carbs. However, there is no universe carb loading plan as the needs will vary from one person to the other depending on some factors. The goal is to ensure that at the end your body has stored enough glucose. This does not, however, give one the right to eat whatever amounts of food. One should have five to six small meals rather than eating heavily all at once.
There is some food that contains higher carbohydrate content than others. For instance, for breakfast, one can have whole grain bread with peanut butter. Porridge and cereals are also an option one can take in order to increase carbohydrates in the morning. Pasta and brown rice are an option for lunch or dinner. When obtaining carbs from fruits consider eating bananas as they have low fiber. Should you go with fruits such as apples, peel the outer cover to reduce on the fiber. Grilled chicken breast, without its skin, is a healthy source of protein.
In between the three main meals in a day, one can introduce snacks which will help towards achieving the set goals quite well. One can take energy bars, 3 to 5 slices of white bread, low-fat yogurt, a cup of strawberry. All these are snacking options which are to prevent one from having to feel the need to overeat.
Factors that influence carbohydrate loading
Factors such as gender, the body weight of the person, how intense one works out can have a direct impact on the consumption.
Body weight is a factor which has to be considered when one is coming up with a plan to increase their intake of carbs. As stated earlier, one should increase 5 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram that they weigh. This, therefore, means the heavier one weighs the more the quantity of carbohydrates they will have to consume. For instance, someone who weighs 70 kilograms will have to increase approximately 700 grams of carbohydrates daily. You should consider checking your body weight as it will help you determine the amount you need.
The intensity of the work out exercises that one does will also determine the amount that one will have to consume. The more intense someone works out the more intake they will need. That way they will have enough energy stored up. This means that other than body weight, the total amount of grams that someone will consume will also vary depending on their exercising routine.
Finally, gender may also play a role in determining the required amount of carbohydrates. Women’s hormones usually change during menstrual cycles. Research has indicated that days after the period stops and last two weeks before a cycle, higher levels of glucose might not be effective towards improving performance at an endurance event.
Benefits of using this strategy
This process is highly beneficial to athletes who are about to participle in rigorous events. If they follow the guidelines on how to do it, they will be able to acquire and store more energy. If the event is one that goes for more than 90 minutes, they are less likely to suffer from fatigue during that period. The stored energy will help them get through the event.
As much as this process has a lot of benefits, there are some risks that might come with it. For this reason, it is important to consult with your doctor. You will be able to get advice on how you can go about this process. Some of the risks involved include;
Many dietitians have made those who want to go through this to be aware of the possibility of adding weight. Given that there is a high level of glycogen in the body, one ends up retaining more water at the same time. This eventually leads to your weight being higher than what it was before changing your diet.
Problems with digestion
As already stated, some of the food that one might consume have high fiber contents. High fiber diets mostly lead to one developing problems with their digestion due to inhibited fluid absorption. To avoid this, one should avoid eating food nutrients that have got a high fiber content.
Blood sugar levels
This should particularly be a point of concern for those who have diabetes. For them, it is important to keep the sugar levels to normal. Certain carbohydrate which is sugary potentially lead to an increased in the amount of the blood sugar level in the body. This could be fatal for those with diseases such as diabetes. It is for that reason that one should also include protein in their diet so that they regulate the Glycemic Index.
Doctors recommend that people who are doing it for the first time should try out weeks before the event. That way, one can be able to learn how their body will be able to respond to the changes that come about. If everything goes well, they can then do it days before the main event as well.
To conclude, carb loading is greatly beneficial to runners and other people who take part in endurance activities that require a lot of more energy. The benefits are achieved through following high carbohydrates diet which facilitates more energy being stored in the muscles. The energy is much needed by those athletes. Despite the fact that it comes with some risks, it is a great way to ensure athletes have the energy to win the races.