Endurance athletes, e.g. marathon runners, rely on their stores of glycogen as a source of energy during competition. Carbohydrate loading is a legal method of boosting the amount of glycogen in the body prior to a competition. The information provided is from personal experience in following the process in preparation for a number of marathons.
What is the process?
Six days prior to a competition, the process begins.
So, what is the theory?
At the end of day three, the body will think that there is a problem with its glycogen stores and that it should store more glycogen than normal.
In the last three days, when the athlete consumes carbohydrate, the body will replenish the glycogen stores and top them up with a little bit extra.
In the first three days, ensure adequate carbohydrates (about 60grm per day) are consumed to maintain the functioning of several important systems in the body.
You will find that you will need to consume larger amounts of fluid than normal. Monitor your urine, it should be clear, to ensure you are drinking sufficiently.
If you decide to try carbohydrate loading, then try it in stages during your training. Start with depletion, low carbohydrate diet for one day, high carbohydrate diet. If no adverse effects, then extend the period of the low carbohydrate diet to a maximum of three days. Keep a detailed log of what you do and what happens.
Horwill (1996) suggests that serve depletion is no longer necessary. If carbohydrate is increased and training reduced by two-thirds during the week before competition muscle glycogen will be increased without any of the above discomforts.
Sheridian (2015) suggests you consume low fibre, easy digested carbohydrate e.g. fruit and vegetables (remove skin and seeds), white bread, white pasta, white rice, honey, jelly and refined cornflakes like cornflakes.
The bad news
Some potential side effects are:
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