Carb loading to improve performance has been a common method for athletes to increase their physical output, but is it truly necessary? If done correctly, it can provide a benefit to you in sports. If it is not done correctly, it can cause you to perform sluggishly and possibly experience weight gain if not monitored.
When you study nutritional advice, you learn that the body uses glycogen as the most desired source of fuel. Carbohydrates are what you must consume to allow the body to have the glycogen it needs to convert calories to energy. During long endurance events, such as running, athletes will often carb load or take in extra carbohydrates to give them a surplus in glycogen storages. The body naturally has a storage of glycogen already from the diet you eat. Carb loading does not mean an all-you-can-eat feeding frenzy. It refers to topping of the body’s natural glycogen storages. This can be done eating complex carbs a couple of days before a big endurance event. It can be as simple as swapping baked potatoes for sweet potatoes or swapping white rice for faro or buckwheat grains.
Being mindful of calories per pound, be careful not to indulge in too many calories. Every 3,500 calories you overeat becomes one pound of weight gain. Eating too many calories or too many simple sugars or simple starches before your big event can lead to heaviness in the stomach, foggy brain, loss of focus, and/or intestinal distress. Working with a professional personal trainer who has knowledge of nutrition trends and sports nutrition can help you personalize a plan that is perfectly individualized for your specific needs.
A dietician can also assist with carb loading options to improve performance and has a more in-depth knowledge of nutrition for those who have special dietary needs or have many food sensitivities or allergies. A dietician and sports nutritionist can also suggest cortisol lowering foods that help fight inflammation of the body and can also help with improving performance.
Get your ASFA certification in Sports Nutrition and learn how you too can use carb loading correctly to help improve performance and increase your personal health.