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Carb Loading - Have You Got It Right?

Carb Loading - Have You Got It Right?



A lot of people get extremely excited when it comes to the week before a long run because they think it means you have the excuse to gorge on carbs for the whole week … but I’m afraid that’s not the case. In this article Sophie, Go Faster Food’s Sports Nutritionist, and I give you the low down on carbohydrate loading.


What exactly is ‘carb loading’?

The idea behind carbohydrate loading is that we only have a limited store of carbohydrate in our muscles, liver and blood and therefore only a limited amount of energy to fuel a race – the store only lasts up to 90-120 mins in fact. So in order to maximise this storage (and therefore prolong the time our energy stores last during the run) carbohydrate intake is increased – you are “loading” your body with carbohydrate.


And the problem is….?

It is definitely worth increasing your carbohydrate intake in the build up to race day, as per the recommendations below, however this absolutely does not mean endless bowls of pasta for the whole week. In running you want to have a good power to weigh ratio. The heavier you are the harder your body has to work. When we store carbohydrate (in the form of glycogen) we also store a lot of water weight with it – in fact for every gram of glycogen, we store 3g of water. This means if you load up too much, your muscles will become very heavy, and that’s the last thing you want to feel at the start of the race!


How to do it right

In the “olden days” there used to be a “depletion” phase in the protocol where you tried to deplete stores of carbohydrate (through training and minimal carbohydrate intake) so that when you went into the “loading” phase the body would over-compensate and store more carbohydrate than normal. However this depletion phase took its toll on the body, and research now suggests carbohydrate intakes only need to increase between 36-48 hours before race day, along with tapering of training. If we want to get scientific, the recommendations for athletes are to consume 10-12g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight each day for 36-48 hours (for events over 90 mins). That’s between 700-840g of carbohydrate per day for someone weighing 70kg.

My FuelSmart for Race Day e-book includes recipes to help you hone your strategy and this delicious Rigatoni with Pancetta, Butternut Squash and Thyme packs a punch for slow-release energy loaded with vitamin C, fibre and heart-healthy omega 3 fats .


Everyone’s different so practice this strategy to see what works best for you. It is worth consuming this amount of carbohydrate across the day in smaller meals & snacks, not just increase your serving in your meals. Lastly, don’t forget that your energy needs each day would have reduced slightly as you are tapering your training, so adjust your total calorie intake accordingly – the proportion of carbohydrate will increase, but shouldn’t add to your energy intake.


Got a question? Feel free to Tweet Kate Percy @GoFasterFood or post a question on Facebook

Stephen Hughes

Interesting read… I used to only eat a casserole dish full of tuna pasta bake the night before a marathon or a big run… but changed the intake after a friend told me to increase my carbs a week before the run… but by keeping it to light food…. fortunately for me huge pizzas work really well for me and I can find a Pizza Hut any where the night before a race.

Interesting read and great advice and love the weight converter 700-840g of carbohydrate = 70kg I weight only just over that! (73 kg)… so I’ll stick to that!

Thanks again!

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