Monday, March 5, 2012

Carbo-loading; is it beneficial?

Written by University of Houston Dietetic Intern, Amanda Gilles.

Carbohydrate loading can provide added energy that athletes often need. If you are exercising for extended periods of time with high intensity; increasing carbohydrate intake can increase your endurance by about 20%. So, if you normally run about 20 miles and hit a wall, carbo-loading could help you reach 24 miles before hitting exhaustion.  When you carbo-load your muscles retain extra glycogen which gets used as energy on the day of your event. The extra glycogen will help to improve performance and allow athletes to exercise at their optimal pace for an extended period of time.

Carbohydrate loading isn’t for everyone. Short term exercise does not benefit as much from carbo-loading but rather a well balanced consistent carbohydrate diet to provide energy.   If you are exercising for 90 minutes or longer at a moderate to high intensity level, you may benefit from carbo-loading. Three to four days before your event you should begin to reduce your exercise and slowly ramp up your carbohydrate intake to promote glycogen storage.

Carbohydrates are so important because the brain needs carbohydrates to function properly, and they are muscles preferred source of energy. When you don’t consume enough carbohydrates your body will start breaking down muscle for energy.

Where are carbohydrates found?
Good sources of carbohydrates for athletes are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat milk.  

Meal and snack ideas to increase carbohydrates:
·         Pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, cereal, toast, sandwiches, pasta, bean salads, yogurt parfait, smoothies, banana with peanut butter, baked potato with toppings, chocolate milk homemade sweet potato fries, rice and beans with fajitas, fresh fruit salad, and bagels to name a few!

The following is an example meal plan for a 155lb - 160lb athlete aiming to carbohydrate load:
3 cups breakfast cereal with 1 ½  cups of reduced fat milk
1 medium banana
1 cup orange juice
toasted English muffin with honey
 sports drink
2 sandwiches (4 slices of bread) with filling as desired
 bottle of fruit juice
banana smoothie made with milk, banana and honey+
cereal bar
1 cup of pasta sauce with 2 cups of cooked pasta
3 slices of garlic bread
2 glasses of milk
Late Snack
toasted bread with peanut butter
 sports drink

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