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Carb-Loading: Tips and Information

Maximise your performance with the information below.

With our Endurance Sports Meal Plans, you stack the odds in your favour. To take maximum advantage of our meal plans, take the time to read the information below.

Important Advice and Useful Tips

What you SHOULD do

  • Is a whole meal too much? Keep some food aside for an extra snack later in the day. For example, bring your breakfast yogurt or fruit with you for an additional snack in the morning or later in the day.
  • Before your race, make sure you have enough time to fully digest your breakfast. On race day, you may be nervous which may cause nausea, bloating, or cramps. If you tend to burp or have reflux during training, give yourself more time to eat breakfast on D-day. Start eating 3 hours before and eat slowly. If the breakfast is too much for you, you can remove 1 or 2 food items (e.g. banana or cereal bowl and milk). The sports drink in ‘snack” should be consumed within the 60 minutes before the start of your race.
  • We included recipes such as applesauce, gingerbread, banana bread, lemon cake, and sorbet for those who wish to make their food from scratch. Even though these recipes are quick-and-easy, you may find yourself short on time. Feel free to substitute for store-bought versions.
  • The protein-rich cereal that you may find listed in the breakfast or in the snacks refers to cereal containing at least 5 g of protein per serving. A few options you can find at your grocery are the Kellogg’s Vector, the Kashi GoLean, or the Nature’s Path cereal.
  • Drinks consumed during the 3-day carb-loading can also contribute towards the amount of carbs ingested. When a sports drink is listed as a snack, it can be taken either during or after your workout.

What you should watch out for

  • Whole wheat bread and pasta are carbohydrate-rich foods but also contain a great amount of dietary fibers. Even though they are usually recommended, these fiber-rich foods may lead to symptoms such as bloating before a race. Therefore, the meal plan includes a minimal amount of dietary fiber (e.g white bread) to facilitate digestion and elimination. This will avoid inopportune urges for a bowel movement during your race and ensure optimal absorption of carbohydrates. If you do not usually experience problems such as bloating or gas, you can always substitute items such as the suggested breakfast cereal or bread with your usual higher fiber ones.
  • It’s not always possible to eat a full meal within 30 minutes after a workout. In these situations, immediately after your session, make sure you consume one of your daily snacks that contains proteins (yogurt, peanut butter, almonds, milk, cheese) while waiting for the next full meal.
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FAQ: Carb-Loading

What about fiber? Why is there no whole-wheat bread?

Whole wheat bread and pasta are carbohydrate-rich foods but also contain a great amount of dietary fibers. Even though they are usually recommended, these fiber-rich foods may lead to symptoms such as bloating before a race. Therefore, the meal plan includes a minimal amount of dietary fiber to facilitate digestion and elimination. This will avoid inopportune urges for a bowel movement during your race and ensure optimal absorption of carbohydrates. If you do not usually experience problems such as bloating or gas, you can always substitute items such as the suggested breakfast cereal or bread with your usual higher fiber ones.

How much water should I drink?

Hydration recommendations vary depending on the temperature, humidity, your training program and your sweat rate. Given all of these variables, recommendations for fluid intake are not included in these menus. Keep in mind however that all liquids and “juicy” foods, like melon, contribute to optimal hydration as well as any sports drinks taken during training. The latter has also been integrated into the menu to help with carb-loading as well as to help ensure optimal hydration.

Clear or pale yellow urine is a good indication that your hydration status is adequate. Keep in mind that dietary supplements, like multivitamins, can change the color of your urine. This “pee-check” method is therefore only recommended for those not taking multivitamins.

What should I drink during the race ?

The amount of fluid you need during a race will vary based on many factors including your intensity, your size and the environment (temperature, humidity) etc. As a general rule, aim to drink at least 500 mL of fluid per hour, more if you are a heavy sweater. Drink small sips every 5-10 minutes to ensure rapid absorption and reduced risk of “sloshing” in your stomach or other discomforts.

During efforts of over 90 minutes you will need roughly 30 to 60g of carbs per hour as well. If your fluid source is a sports drink (ie. Gatorade), 500mL of it will provide 30g of carbohydrates. Sports gel, jujubes, and sports beans are other adequate sources of carbs. Make sure you drink water with them (at least 500mL as mentioned above) to ensure their rapid absorption.

If you are a salty sweater (you notice white stains on your hat or clothes) you may need additional electrolytes or more fluid during a race. A consultation with an experienced sports nutritionist is recommended.

I tested the menu 3 days before my event and gained 3 pounds! Is this normal?

The storage of carbohydrates in the muscles as glycogen is accompanied by increased storage of water molecules. This will lead to small increase in weight. This weight-gain is a sign that the carb-loading is working. Make sure that you are comfortable with this increase before the race and know it will gradually disappear during the race through sweat and as your glycogen stores are used.

What do you mean by protein-rich cereal?

The protein-rich cereal that you may find listed in the breakfast or in the snacks refers to cereal containing at least 5 g of protein per serving. A few options you can find at your grocery are the Kellogg?s Vector, the Kashi GoLean, or the Nature?s Path cereal.

What does the number of D-Day breakfast represent?

D-Day breakfast is very carefully planned for your pre-race needs. The number e.g. ”D-Day” 160 indicates the amount of carbohydrates found in this breakfast in order to complete your dietary preparation for your imminent start.

Why does my menu look the same as my training partners?

Your carb-loading menu is based on your body weight and personal preferences, as these are the most important factors in this protocol. Some recipes may be common to your training partner’s menu, because they are particularly suitable, i.e. quick, high in carbohydrates and low in fibre. We remind you that you can easily modify your menu by clicking on the blue “Swap meal” button: All suggested alternatives are nutritionally-equivalent.

We encourage you to self-adjust the amount of food if you feel hungry or have difficulty finishing a dish. Future menus for endurance sports will take other data into account such as pace, gender, etc. We are continuing to improve the customizability of menus and encourage you to send any feedback to us.

Do I have to follow all the recipes and make everything from scratch?

We have included quick-and-easy recipes for snacks like applesauce and banana bread for those who wish to make all of their food from scratch. Preparing for an endurance event can be stressful, and you may find yourself short on time. If this is the case, feel free to substitute store bought alternatives such as sweetened applesauce or dry oatmeal cookies, or fig-filled cookies. A piece of toast with jam is also an adequate alternative for snacks.

Do I need 1 or 3 days of glycogen loading ?

Recent studies have shown that it is theoretically possible to maximize glycogen stores 1 day before a race. This would require an athlete to consume 10 to 11g of carbohydrates per kg of their body weight the day before a race. For experienced carb-loaders, particularly those who weigh between 40 and 60kg, this may be possible. However as the sports nutritionists at VIVAÏ:Experts in Nutrition explain, most runners will find it difficult to eat this high volume of carbohydrates the day before their race. For this reason, they have recommended a carb-loading that takes place over 3 days.

Can I follow the carb-loading meal plan if my event lasts less than 90 minutes?

If you are an experienced athlete and you are participating in a shorter event, you can do a 1 or 2-day carb-loading prior to your race.

Do I need to deplete glycogen stores first?

Studies published in the 1960s suggested that a period of depletion of glycogen stores was necessary to achieve maximal storage. A period of intense training was recommended with little to no carbohydrate consumption followed by 2-5 days of carbohydrate loading. Numerous subsequent studies have shown that this depletion phase is not required to achieve maximal storage.

For more information about the glycogen depletion, please read: Burke, L.M., Hawley, J.A., Wong, S.H., Jeukendrup, A.E. (2011) Carbohydrates for training and competition. J Sports Sci, 29 Suppl 1:S17-27

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Info Nutrition: Carb-Loading

This customizable meal plan is for anyone who is actively practicing an endurance sport (longer than 90 minutes) such as half-marathons, marathons, cycling challenge-rides and road races, triathlons, etc.

It is designed to be used before an event such as a race and is not appropriate for use before weekly trainings.

Carbohydrates:

  • Carbohydrates (sugars) are the principle source of energy for muscles during endurance exercise. Carb-loading takes advantage of the body’s ability to store carbohydrates in the muscles and liver as glycogen. This dietary protocol maximizes these reserves 1 to 3 days before an event.
  • This reserved energy (glycogen) allows an athlete to endure a long and intense effort and to maintain a consistent pace. A recent study showed that a carbohydrate intake of greater than 7g per kilogram of body weight, consumed before the marathon, can improve performance up to 13%. The study showed that athletes who consumed more carbs ran at a pace of 5:41 min/km compared to a pace of 6:26 min/km for those who consumed less carbs in the day before the marathon.
  • For an effective carbohydrate load, about 70 to 80% of total energy intake (calories) should come from carbohydrates for 1 to 3 days before the event. It is not necessary, as previously thought, to fully deplete your glycogen stores before starting the carb-loading.
  • The best food choices for carb-loading include high glycemic index items such as fruit juices, fresh and dried fruits as well as cereal products and grains that are low in fibre.
  • Participants in endurance events are not properly fueling. A recently study of runners showed that 88% consumed insufficient carbohydrates in the days leading up to the race. Those who consumed adequate carbohydrates enjoyed a 13% faster performance.

Weight

  • The storage of carbohydrates in the muscles as glycogen is accompanied by increased storage of water molecules. This will lead to small increase in weight. This weight-gain is a sign that the carb-loading is actually working. Make sure that you are comfortable with this increase before the race and know it will gradually disappear during the race through sweat and as your glycogen stores are used.

References

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IMPORTANT: The information provided on this website does not replace a medical consultation and is not intended for self diagnosis. We recommend that you seek the advice of your doctor or healthcare professional before undertaking a change to your diet or lifestyle. See Terms & Conditions.