What Does Carb Loading Actually Mean?

As one of the main food groups, carbohydrates play an important role in weight and nutrition. Are they something you should be eating more or less of, though? Well, depending on what you’re looking for, carb loading is definitely something worth considering. That begs the question: what does carb loading actually mean?

Source: Healthline

Carb loading generally involves eating a lot of carbs before an event

When it comes to carbohydrates, people often want to know how to maintain a low-carb diet. That is unless they’re endurance athletes who understand that carbs are great for increasing your stored energy supplies. These are the types of people who typically utilize carb loading, a nutritional strategy where carbohydrates are consumed in excess days before an event. Athletes will generally combine their high-carb meals with a lack of activity to ensure greater preservation of the glycogen stores.

Carb loading provides additional energy stores that can help with intense physical activity

When someone eats this much carbohydrates in a short space of time, their body can’t process it all at once. Whatever it can’t handle gets stored primarily in the muscles, with some also going to the liver. These stores come in handy during an event because they give the body more energy to draw from, thus increasing the likelihood of performing better. Carbs are better than protein and fat at providing this energy, which is why athletes prioritize it over the other macronutrients.

Source: Associated Press

Carb loading becomes more necessary the longer the period of physical activity

The reason why endurance athletes tend to utilize carb loading over anything else is because of how much energy is required to keep going. In a standard period of physical activity, the body doesn’t require extra glycogen to stay energized. The longer you go, though, the more dependent it becomes on additional sources. That’s why anyone looking to exercise for more than 90 minutes at a time benefits from doing carb loading. Provided, of course, that they eat healthy carbohydrates like apples, oatmeal, potatoes, and quinoa.

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Carb loading may require some practice but should work if you keep the basics in mind

If you’re looking to try carb loading for the first time, it’s worth practicing before utilizing it for a big event. After all, it’s possible that all those carbohydrates may make you feel tired and sluggish. When you start carb loading, you’ll want to work on the basis of 0.3 – 0.4 ounces per pound of body weight. Keep in mind that the body can apparently store around 1,800-2,000 calories worth of glycogen in the muscles and liver. Alter your diet like this three to four days before an event while lowering the intensity and duration of your training to 50%. With any luck, things should work out in your favor when it really matters.

Carb loading is tough, and it can sometimes seem more appealing to just focus on eating foods that are low in carbs. However, if you want to improve your endurance, carb loading might be the way to go.