Carbohydrate loading, commonly referred to as carb loading or carbo loading, is the process of maximizing the storage of glycogen in the liver or muscles.
For athletes, carb loading before workout is recommended to enhance their endurance.
If you are not an endurance athlete, such as a marathoner or triathlete, carb loading before a workout will help you last a little longer in your work out sessions.
Carb loading is done by eating foods packed with many carbohydrates before workout sessions to preserve extra energy that will be used during the sessions.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Basically, when you exercise, your body uses glycogen, stored in either your liver or muscles. By eating a lot of carbs, you increase the levels of glycogen stored in your body.
Doing this before embarking on a workout session will enable you to exercise harder and longer. When it comes to converting food to energy, your body converts carbs into glycogen more easily than fats or proteins.
This means that your body will use them up more easily for energy.
However, there is a limit to this. Carb loading is considered to last only up to 90 minutes. This is when your body will have reached the limits of its glycogen reserves.
This is why carb loading is suitable for exercises such as running, swimming, or hiking.
Also, carb loading before a workout has been found effective for high-intensity exercises such as weight lifting. One study indicates that a high intake of carbs before a heavy weight lifting session helped people lift more weight and longer.
In this study, six males took part in a randomized, double- blind study. The group was supplied with carbs, while the other one was supplied with a placebo before embarking on an intensive weight lifting session. In the end, the group that was administered with carbs recorded a higher force output and an increased time to exhaustion.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START CARB LOADING?
Generally, you are recommended to start carb loading three days before your workout. Besides, load up again 90 minutes before your session.
However, the amount of carbs you take is relative. It depends on your body type and the type of exercise you want to do (whether heavy or light).
Generally, according to this review on Pub Med, if you are an athlete or want to sustain your energy like that, you should consider eating about 4 grams of carbs per day for each pound of body weight.
A key thing to keep in mind is that carb loading is to increase the ratio of carbs to protein and fats and not increase your calorie levels.
Alternatively, the number of carbs should take 80-90% of the total calories in your body.
The next time you want to last a bit longer in your workout, consider having a carb load night before the morning workout.
DOES CARB LOADING MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT?
As mentioned earlier, carb loading for muscle gain is to increase the intake of carbs and not proteins or fat.
Therefore, if you are not careful, you might pick foods high in carbs, fats, and proteins. Definitely, this will cause a spike in your weight.
Since you are increasing your carb intake, consider limiting the amount of fat you ingest to avoid eating too many calories, as this will leave you heavier and feeling sluggish.
Be careful while selecting foods and pick those rich in just carbs and not carbs and fat.
DOES CARB LOADING REALLY WORK?
Yes, carb loading does work.
A research review on Sports Med published in Pub Med indicates carb loading is responsible for decreasing fatigue and increasing performance by 2-3% for 90- minute exercises.
However, it is ineffective for exercises past the 90- minute mark because your body will have reached its energy reserves.
If you have been thinking of trying carb loading, the following are some strategies to think about
MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY NEED IT
Before you actually embark on a carb loading strategy, make sure that you can actually benefit from it. If you are aiming at a 90- minute exercise, the strategy will work effectively.
However, if you target exercises below or above the 90-minute mark, the strategy will probably not work for you.
CHECK YOUR CARB INTAKE
Using the nutrition label on your food, you can calculate and see the number of carbs you are taking in. This will help you know when to double up this intake.
CARBS ONLY NOT FAT
As mentioned earlier, you should be careful to go for foods that contain only carbs and not fats. Fats will cause an increase in your weight because it adds the amount of calorie in your body.
CONSIDER YOUR CARB LOADING DURATION
As highlighted earlier, a simple 3- day carb loading strategy will work.
While at this, remember to practice a couple of times, noting down adjustments you need to make in your carb loading strategy.
This will help you adopt the measures that are best suited for your body, for example, increasing the grams of carbs.
USE THE FOODS YOU KNOW
Make sure you use the foods that you are conversant with.
This is because using new foods that you have not tried before may put you at risk of stomach upset and limit your performance thereafter.
SPRINKLE A LITTLE SALT
Consider sprinkling a little salt in your meals during carb loading. This is because sodium levels in your body need to stay at their peak. After all, you will sweat a lot of it during the exercise.
At these times, you should treat your body like the temple that it is. Taking junk foods such as chips and chocolates will only fill your stomach but not fuel your muscles.
WHAT FOODS ARE BEST FOR CARB LOADING?
To get the right amount of carbs during carb loading before a workout, you should concentrate on foods rich in carbs and low in protein or fat. Some of these include
Whenever there is a mention of carbs, the one thing that comes to your mind is whole grains like pasta, flour, and bread.
This makes them an automatic part of your carb loading diet. However, you should keep in mind that while they are rich in carbs, you should avoid refined ones.
Starchy vegetables such as corns are another great source of carb for your carb loading diet. In some cases, they are even considered to have more carbohydrates than whole grains.
These are a good source of fructose, which a simple carbohydrate.
However, since they are simple carbohydrates, they can be easily consumed, leading to abrupt rise and fall of energy levels during your workouts.
Alternatively, mixing them with the complex carbohydrates comes in handy.
The simple ones will help you start your workout sessions on a higher note, while the complex ones will keep you going throughout the session.
Carb loading before workout is not effective on everyone. Also, it can cause different effects on people.
Before deciding to embark on it, consider other health conditions in your body, such as diabetes.
This will help you adjust your carb loading diet to suit your conditions and bring out the best result.