Glycogen is one of the body’s main sources of energy and carbohydrates, which is stored in your muscles and liver. Over the years, the importance of ‘carbo-loading’ has increased and although it will not make you run faster, it will allow you to minimise your risk of ‘hitting the wall’.
When would you need to consider carbo-loading?
Like many things, carbo loading is a very individualised process to work out which distance you would need to begin carbo-loading for. However, it can be said that for most individuals, 5K and 10L runs usually do not require carbo-loading as glycogen fuel is unlikely to have diminished in the time taken to cover those distances. Studies have shown that a 90 minute or longer duration run is where the need to carbo-load becomes apparent. Sufficient carbohydrate intake cannot be achieved by just adding more carbohydrates to one meal on the day of the event, you should begin to add extra carbohydrates to your diet 3 days before your race, so begin to prepare with a shop about 5 days before your race with your favourite carbohydrates … cue the fun!
What foods are good to carbo-load with?
Glycogen is more efficient as an energy source than fat, which is much harder to convert into fuel. Carbohydrate options don’t have to make your diet boring, they can include; oatmeal, bread, pancakes, waffles, bagels, yoghurt and tortillas. Fruits can also be a high carbohydrate choice, however, it is best to minimise the fibre intake from these, as it can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal difficulties mid race, nobody wants stomach troubles mid race!
This doesn’t mean that you drastically need to change your diet, try just adding extra carbohydrates to your current diet to avoid any stress on your body or mind, for example:
Breakfast: Extra toast, pancakes or waffles with banana or yoghurt on the side of your breakfast.
Lunch: Add some more potatoes or pasta to your salad at lunch or simply switching to a substantial wholemeal sandwich. Add
Dinner: should be carbohydrate based, with rice, pasta or potatoes, with some carbohydrate based fruit and vegetables such as beetroot and sweet potatoes.
How should I plan my carbo-load?
You should consider starting your carbo-loading 3 days prior to your event. Your daily carbohydrate intake should increase to 60-80% of your daily calories, this should be followed up until . You can use many websites to give you some example meals to plan for a high carbohydrate diet such as eatthismuch.com. Below, we have created some example diet days for a carbohydrate loading diet.