How to Carb load before race day

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If like me you are inspired by all the races and competitions in Autumn, this break down of general carbohydrate loading (carb-loading), is sure to help you go faster and for longer come race day! I have adapted it from my own methods of carb-loading back when I was preparing for triathlons as an elite competitor while also taking into consideration the most recent studies on the topic.

General carb loading advises increasing your carb intake a minimum of 3 days before an event, ideally start 5 days before. Carb-loading is effective when exercising or racing for 30 minutes or more, however I find it is not necessary unless aiming to compete at your best for over 45 minutes, as there is a sufficient amount of energy stored and available.

The Science:

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of fuel for your body, converted into glucose so they can react with oxygen to produce energy. Any excess carbohydrates not immediately used as a fuel source are stored as glycogen in your liver to be broken down easily into energy when needed. Fats can also be broken down into energy however your body takes longer to do this which is not ideal when you require immediate energy, (for example when racing). Loading up on carbohydrates will increase your glycogen stores so that on race day you have easily accessible reserves, to keep your respiratory system efficient; in other words you have more energy to keep racing faster for longer.

A week before.

Eating lots of carbs in the days leading up to the race will allow your body to store those extra carbohydrates as glycogen in your body. This means they can be converted into energy whilst you are racing.

Make sure to eat carbs for breakfast lunch and dinner.
In between meals, cereal bars and oat bars are a good choice.
Centre meals around a good helping of carbs.
Food examples are: baked potatoes, rice, pasta, porridge, fruit and vegetables.
3 days before aim to get 85% of you calories from carbohydrates, says Atlanta based sports nutritionist Ilana Katz, R.D. This will ensure your muscles are full of stored glycogen.

The Day before.

Eat the same as the previous few days but keep meats and fats low as they take longer to digest.

Make sure lunch is full of carbohydrates, pasta is ideal.
If eating a late dinner, keep it relatively small - it is ok to wake up fairly hungry so you can get a solid breakfast in!
Reduce meat and fish intake, these foods take a longer time to digest and we want easily digestible foods so as to store energy for race day.
Reduce fat intake, meals should be mainly carbs and vegetables for the best results for race day.

Race day.

Eat 2-4 hours before. Porridge with water, honey and fruit is ideal or a bagel with jam and low fat yogurt.
A banana is a good choice an hour before.
Within the hour leading up to the start, sip an energy/isotonic drink so as to make sure you are hydrated.
If racing for an hour or more, your legs may start to feel wobbly because of fatigue. Eating a handful of sweets such as jelly babies or an energy gel will provide quick release glucose to combat the effect.
If your race is early, make sure you get up at least two hours before and eat straight away in the early hours, otherwise your breakfast won't be fully digested!
How much carbohydrate should I eat?!

Monique Ryan, R.D. Author of 'Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes', recommends eating 4 grams of carbohydrates for every pound of bodyweight 2-3 days before an endurance event. So if you weigh 180 pounds, you should aim to consume 720g carbs daily.


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carb loading carbohydrate Energy glycogen racing nutrition Running tough mudder

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