Do you carb load?

With your spring marathons fast approaching this is becoming a question I’m asked daily.

Carb loading is only effective with races over 90 minutes such as Marathons, ultras and triathlons. During intense continuous exercise, your muscles will become depleted of glycogen (stored energy) around that time.

Ever hit the wall?... I have 😬

Sports drinks and gels are great for topping it up during a long run or race but upping your dietary carbs a few days before can make sure you reach the start line with the maximum energy available.

In the 60’s in the final week before a race you would train hard and eat a low carb diet to strip the body of stored glycogen then the last few days they would do the opposite so reduce exercise and eat tons of carbs.

The idea behind this was that clearing out the body's energy stores would encourage it to store much more energy than it would have done otherwise.

However the initial stage of training hard on a low carb diet would leave the runner exhausted, hungry and miserable then would struggle to stuff their faces with enough carbs to replenish stores.

Nowadays most people tend to just up the proportion of carbs in their diet 3 or so days before rather than binging on bowls of pasta, porridge and double sandwich’s.

Along with a good taper, you would be at the start like with maxed out stores and the best chance on the day.

Some tips for carb loading

* Aim for around 60% of your calories to come from carbs in this 3 day period.
* A rule of thumb is about 8-10g per Kg of body weight so a 70kg person will need 560-700g per day.
* Trying to eat little and often is far easier than making your usual meals massive.

Remember the aim isn’t to actually really increase your calorie intake it’s to up the % of those calories that come from carbohydrates.

Meals that are high in carbohydrate include:
* Wholegrain bread with peanut butter.
* A large bowl of porridge or cereal with milk.
* A large bowl of spaghetti carbonara (pasta with eggs, parmesan cheese and bacon).
* Grilled chicken breast with a large serving of brown rice.

For a quick way to top up your carb count, try one of these quick, easy snacks. Each is crammed with about 75g (300kcal) of carbohydrate.

* 1 large handful of raisins, dried apricots or other dried fruit
* 2 energy bars
* 3 slices of bread thinly spread with honey
* 4 thick slices of bread or toast
* 5 rice cakes spread with jam
Of course, if you’re still finding it hard to cram enough carbs in, sports drinks are another alternative.

Will you gain weight?

Well probably a little is the easy answer your body stores around 3G of water for every gram of glycogen it’s not uncommon to gain 1-2kg during this time however it’s just stored carbohydrates you need to power you race day anyway.

If it’s more than that you have eaten too much 😆

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