Your friends have heard of your expertise in nutrition and two of them have requested that you suggest a diet plan to help them improve their athletic performance. What suggestions would you make? Would these suggestions include the use of supplements? Why or why not?
Carbohydrate loading can give you an extra edge during an endurance event. Here's how it works ? and when to try it.
Perhaps you're training for a marathon or triathlon. Or maybe you're a long-distance swimmer or cyclist. To improve your performance, consider carbohydrate loading before your next high-intensity endurance activity.
Carbohydrates: The body's fuel
Carbohydrates are your body's primary source of energy. Carbohydrates are found in grains, vegetables and legumes (beans and peas). They're also found in sugar and sweets, including fruit and dairy products. Each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories. During digestion, your body converts carbohydrates into sugar. The sugar enters your bloodstream, where it's transferred to individual cells to provide energy. Some of the extra sugar is stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen.
Your muscles normally store only small amounts of glycogen ? enough to support you during activities such as recreational biking or swimming, weightlifting, and five- or 10-kilometer runs. But depending on your level of fitness, your muscles may run out of glycogen if you exercise intensely for more than 90 to 120 minutes. In turn, your stamina and performance may suffer. This can be an issue during activities such as long-distance running, swimming and cycling, soccer and triathlons.
Storing extra energy for greater endurance
Enter carbohydrate loading, a performance-enhancing strategy. Traditionally, carbohydrate loading is done in two steps the week before a high-endurance activity:
Step 1. About a week before the event, reduce your carbohydrate intake to about 40 percent to 50 percent of your total calories. Increase protein and fat intake to compensate for the decrease in carbohydrates. Continue training at your normal level. This will help deplete your carbohydrate stores and make room for the loading that comes next.
Step 2. Three to four days before the event, increase your carbohydrate intake to 60 percent to 70 percent of your daily calories ? or about 4 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrates ...