Saturday, May 28, 2011

Carb Loading:

Now that we are fully into marathon season many new runners are looking to make sure they are properly fueled and experienced runners are trying to fine tune their hydration and fueling for their races.

Carb Loading has been associated with endurance sports for quite some time now and most people feel that it is an essential part of getting ready for that big race. Though it is important to maximize your carbohydrate reserves most people actually go about it the wrong way. The idea behind carb loading is to maximize the readily available carbohydrate stores in your muscles and liver. Most people can store about 2000 calories within their muscles and liver, which equals out to be about 19-21 miles. Once you run out of these readily available carbs your body will switch to burning body fat, which is a much less efficient fuel source. The process of the body switching from readily available carbs to body fat can generally be felt by the runner and is often not a pleasant experience. For me it is a sudden feeling of a loss of fuel, almost like I have not eaten anything is days, this is often referred to as "Hitting the Wall."

Runner and other endurance athletes want to maximize these stores in order to avoid hitting the wall as much as possible. In order to do this many runners just assume that you should just eat a lot of carbs leading up to the race. This is actually not what you really want to do, yes you will get more carbs and hopefully max your stores to a degree you might also gain some weight due to an increased amount of carbs and decreased exercise due to tapering.

You want to decrease your carb intake in order to condition your body to retain as many carbs as possible. For example if your race is on Saturday, the Sunday before the race you would want to eat about 60% less carbs than normal, then 50% on Monday, 40% Tuesday 30%, Wednesday 20% Thursday 10% Friday equal or more than you normal carb intake. When you are loading up on carbs remember that is it not just a lot of pasta, you need to also top off the carbohydrate stores that are in your liver. These are more glucose stores, so I will often have some fruit, which has more glucose than just pasta or potatoes. Remember to be careful when increasing any carb intake because many carbs like oatmeal, wholewheat pasta and grains have a lot of fiber in them and this can cause stomach issues and more trips to the bathroom than you may want...not something you want to worry about when running.

There is another easier way to maximize your carbs before a race. You can eat a normal diet throughout your taper week and simply get up the morning before your race a do several (5-10) 100m sprints or striders then eat a high carb diet the rest of the day. This will have the same effect of depriving your body of carb over a week. I have not tried this method before so I cannot really say if it works or not but it has been proven to have a similar effect. Now next time when you getting ready for that next race be sure your carb loading the right way.

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