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Carbohydrate loading

Carbohydrate loading is a research proven fueling strategy designed to improve endurance performance. There have been many different protocols over the years but the simplest strategy is to rest for 24-48 hours before the race whilst simultaneously increasing your intake of carbohydrates.

Reducing your training volume (tapering) and increasing carbohydrate intake will allow your body to store high levels of muscle glycogen. Research has shown that this method can boost performance by 20%. In practical terms, if you suffer from fatigue and exhaustion 20 miles into the marathon (commonly termed ‘hitting the wall’), carbohydrate loading will enable you to extend the distance before you begin to suffer.

Here, we will provide you with a very simple, tried and tested strategy that will help you last the distance and hopefully prevent you from hitting the dreaded ‘wall’.

How to carbo-load………..

During the 24 hours before the race, increase the amount of carbohydrate in your diet (7 – 10 g carbohydrate per kg body weight) while at the same time reducing the amount of protein and fat. At this stage, your training schedule will be quite light so your energy expenditure will be reduced. Therefore, your total calorie intake should be similar but the percentage of which comes from carbohydrates should be higher.

Don’t worry about the numbers, there are some really easy practical ways to achieve the desired effect. For example, if you eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, add some jam on toast and a glass of fruit juice. If you usually eat a cheese sandwich at lunch, change it to a jam or honey sandwich on thick sliced bread. If you’re eating corn based chili con carne in the evening, take one less spoonful of chili and add another spoonful of rice or half a jacket potato.

Try to avoid leaving your carbo-loading to the night before the race as this can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish on the start line – spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the day.

Warning: For every 1 g of carbohydrate you store an extra 3 g of water. This means you may end up putting on a little weight (~1 kg). Don’t worry, this isn’t fat, it’s the extra energy and fluid you will rely on come race day.

Example:

Breakfast
Large bowl porridge with raisins, honey and milk
Slice toast with jam
200ml orange juice
Snack
Jaffa cakesTropical fruit pot
Soft drink
Lunch
Sandwich of your choice (thick bread or 4 slices)Jelly or rice pudding pot
Soft drink
Snack
2 slices malt loafBanana
Sports drink
Dinner
Pasta with tomato based sauce, chicken and vegetables
Apple crumble
Soft drink
Snack
Yoghurt with fresh fruit

Common mistakes to avoid: