Low energy and fatigue can mean the difference between shattering a personal best or coming in last place. This is why many endurance athletes turn to carbo-loading before an event to make sure they maximize their potential.
But there are some important guidelines to keep in mind so you get the most from your carbohydrates.
What Is Carbo-loading?
Loading up on a carbohydrates is a practice commonly used by endurance athletes, especially marathon runners, cyclists or anyone who engages in physical activity for more than 90 straight minutes. This involves eating high amounts of high-carb foods before training or an event. They do it because carbohydrates provide energy for the entire body, to keep it functioning optimally and preventing fatigue. Once digested, the carbs are then stored within the muscles and liver as glycogen, which the body can burn as energy when needed. However, there are right and wrong ways to do it.
How to Carb-load Properly
Carbohydrates are starches and sugars. Not giving the body adequate carbohydrates to convert into glycogen for energy means the body starts burning fat as an energy source. While this is great in terms of weight loss, it means the body gets tired faster and can greatly affect an athlete's performance. Most athletes refer to this crash as "hitting the wall."
It's important to first choose the right carbohydrate-rich foods to consume. Going low-fiber may go against your usual routine of whole grains or certain fruits and vegetables, but the fiber can lead to digestive issues during strenuous activity. Some options to consider include pasta, rice, tortillas, bread, bagels, raisins, honey, fruit juice, milk and peeled fruit -- these foods are easily digested by the body so they can be converted to glycogen. You can also find carbohydrate-rich powders that can be mixed with juice or milk to give you a quick dose of carbohydrates. It's also best to steer clear of high-fat foods as well as an excess of protein, since both take longer for the body to use.
Now that you've chosen your food, when do you start carbo-loading? About one week before your event, make sure at least half of your calories are coming from carbohydrates. You should aim for 4 g of carbohydrates for every pound of body weight. You can continue training as normal during this time. When you're reach the three or four-day mark, make sure carbohydrates take up at 70 percent of your daily calories.
The last step is to go easy with your physical activity in the last few days before the event. This allows your body to create large glycogen stores and hang onto them. You can still train, but it's important to scale it back to prevent injury and exhaustion before the event as well. You shouldn't train at all the day before.
More Tips for Greater Endurance
Here are some additional ways to improve your endurance:
Rest less between sets. Just be sure to give yourself adequate time for water if you need it.
Make sure your routine consists of cardio and strength training workouts.
Try compound movements that involves multiple muscle groups.
Give your full energy in every workout.
Add rest days to your routine.
Get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to help your body heal.
Stay hydrated during workouts and throughout your day.
Change up your routine regularly and challenge yourself, upping the intensity gradually to prevent injury or over training.
Carbo-loading can help you take your training and competing to the next level. Make sure to choose your foods and supplements wisely and you'll get the results you're after. Check out our full selection of sports supplements at eVitamins today!