The Truth About Carbo-Loading
Active people – athletes, persons with a regular physical workout program and people-on-the-go-rely on carbohydrates for essential body fuel. They usually charge up with bread, pasta and rice, more popularly known as “carbo-loading.”
Carbohydrate loading, also known as carbs-boosting or super-compensation, aims to prevent the onset of exhaustion during intense workout or endurance events. Carbo-loading increases the glycogen stores of the muscles, which increases endurance potential during continuous physical exercise. If completed properly, carbo-loading can almost double the normal amount of stored carbohydrates (and therefore, doubles the amount of energy).
Although the body needs a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat for energy, carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. Simple carbohydrates, which are digested faster then complex carbohydrates, are found in fruits, most vegetables, milk, table or brow sugar and honey. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are found in starchy foods like bread, pasta, bagels, rice, legumes and other grain products and vegetables. These foods break down slowly during digestions, giving the body a time-released source of energy.
Wheat-based products like bread, cereals and pasta are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates that are ideal for carbo-loading. Aside from being a major source of complex carbohydrates, wheat foods are also rich in fiber, iron, B vitamins and are generally low in fat.
During digestion, the body converts carbohydrates into sugar. The sugar enters the bloodstream and is absorbed by the cells to provide energy. However, the body may not immediately need all of this sugar so it stores the extra sugar in the liver and muscles. This stored sugar is the liver and muscles. This stored sugar is called glycogen.
According to the Wheat Foods Council, sports nutritionists recommend that athletes increase their carbohydrate intake by as much as 60 to 75 percent of their total calories in the form of carbohydrates, as early as two days before a sports event. This can be achieved by altering the athlete’s training load and diet over a seven-day period before the game. Moderate training and normal diet should be followed for the first four days. For the remaining three days, low to moderate intensity exercise and a high carbohydrate diet should be followed.
Carbo-loading also means reducing training load and resting the muscles to allow them to become completely loaded with glycogen. Since you want to start the race with as much glycogen as possible, engaging in low to moderate intensity exercise is as important as eating in the process of super-compensation.
The Wheat Foods Council explains that all individuals vary in the way they digest food because of variations in age, metabolism, training status and gender. For competing athletes or simply active individuals, carbohydrates are always a better choice than fats or proteins because they empty from the stomach faster. Once the glycogen in the muscles is depleted after 1 ½ to 2 hours or prolonged exercise, a high carbohydrate diet is again recommended to replenish the glycogen reserve. Grain products such as bagel, tortilla, pasta and bread are excellent choices to refuel the body.