High carb meals a.k.a carbs-loading is an essential regime of endurance runs/training. This is because your body can only store enough glycogen (energy) to sustain limited periods of exercise. After this point, without sufficient extra fuelling you’re in danger of running out of energy and coming up against the dreaded “wall”.
Carbs-loading got its boost and gained popularity in the 1960s in order to boost athletes’ glycogen stores before long runs. The best and most common way of doing this is to simply increase the carb intake in your diet three days before the race. Essentially a person needs 5-7 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight in a day (this roughly works out to 1500 kcal for women and 1800 kcal for men on an average). During carb-loading this needs to be bumped up to 8-10 grams per kilogram of body weight.
It is advised that in order to make the sudden jump to carbs-loading, the runner eat smaller meals more often than making their regular meals larger. Eating 5 to 6 times a day feel better than trying to over-eat in 3 meals. It should also be remembered that this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to increase your calorie intake. You just have to juggle your food around in a manner that you eat more carbs than other foods. Having said that, it’s also noteworthy to not neglect other food groups and nutrients in this regime. It’s just a matter of shifting proportions.
In marathon prep, when you are tapering in the days and weeks beforehand, carb-load on the day before a long-run. By using your preparations as a practice run for carbs-loading, you’ll have room to see what the feeling of increased muscle glycogen stores may be like, whether it’s having a negative impact and whether your body is any stiffer than usual.
Another thing that’s crucial in this phase is ensuring your body is not overwhelmed with the increase in calories. The easiest method to successfully achieve carb-loading to include carbohydrate-rich foods at every meal or snack. You can generally rely on bread, pasta, rice, cereal, potatoes, and fruit for this, while simple sugars and refined grains, which you might have avoided in training, can be included in your diet during the carb-loading phase. Reduce fiber intake at the same time as this is known to cause gastrointestinal discomfort in long runs.
And there’s no need to overeat junk or new carbs-heavy food. At the end of the day, it’s always important to not give your body an unfamiliar jolt. Here is a list of high carb meals that are easy to whip up –
▪ Wholegrain bread with peanut butter
▪ Grilled chicken breast with a heaped serving of brown rice
▪ Large bowl of spaghetti Carbonara (pasta with eggs, parmesan cheese)
▪ Large bowl of porridge or cereal with milk
▪ 4 thick slices of bread or toast, with spreads
▪ 1 small bowl of raisins, dried apricots or other dried fruit
Carbs-loading is one of the few times you can indulge in foods that are otherwise not advisable for running training. Relish every bite, and use the extra energy to scorch the track!