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Carbohydrate Loading - What is it and how do you do it?

Jun 03, 2021

Today on Coffee & Questions I answered a great question - How do you Carbohydrate Load?

Watch the replay for all of the gold nuggets, or read the quick summary below.

I've been up to my eyeballs in Carb Loading plans recently with everyone doing Cairns 70.3 or Ironman this weekend. A common theme is that nobody has known how to do it properly


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What is Carbohydrate Loading?

Where you load or store more carbohydrate in our muscles - muscle glycogen

Just like you fill up your car with petrol, you can fill up your fuel tank (glycogen)

This process takes time - 24-48hours

So eating a pasta meal the night before is not going to be particularly useful. 1. it's not enough carbohydrate and 2. the timing is a little late if you haven't been eating carbs in the lead-up 

We store glycogen with water in a ratio of 1:3 - you will gain a little weight with carb-loading - this is normal! Don't stress, it's lost in your event

Carb Loading is highly individual - depending on who you are and what your event is, this will guide how aggressive I am with my carbohydrate loading plan for you. 


What type of events is Carbohydrate Loading Beneficial for?

It's useful for events longer than 90 minutes

Someone asked a great question about carb-loading for a strength-based weights session - it's not 


How much Carbohydrate do you need?

The guidelines are based on an amount of carbohydrate per kg of lean mass - not our total mass. You want to load carbohydrate into your muscle, not your fat. In fact it's impossible

There is a range - depending on the type of athlete you are will depend where you sit on the range


What types of foods are good for carb loading

Focus on carbohydrates, more refined sources with minimal fibre, fat and protein

It is not a long term eating strategy for this reason

e.g. a vegemite scroll or finger bun is a better choice than donuts or croissants which are too high in fat

I will always write a carbohydrate loading plan that includes food that my clients loves. 

Lasagne is not that high in Carbs! Unless you add garlic bread or double sheet it ;)

There are some Carbohydrate Loading specific recipes within the Dietitian Approved Recipe Database.

Low Carb High Fat

We had a brief discussion on  low carb, high-fat diets and how that works


How many days do you Carbohohydrate Load for?

It depends. It depends on who you are and how long your event is.

When do you stop Carb-Loading?

Theoretically the night before. But for an endurance event, I always plan a pre-race meal too which is your last opportunity to top up your fuel tank after fasting overnight (while sleeping).

Make sure you practice!

With everything with nutrition, never try anything new on race day!

Your carbohydrate loading plan needs to be custom to you and practised at least twice before your event.

Practice at home with what is going to be practical for racing. If you don't have access to a kitchen when you're away, there's no point having a plan that requires you to cook. 


If you need help developing your own custom Carbohydrate Loading Plan, book in for a consultation today HERE!


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