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Articles > Carbo Loading

A quick explanation of carbo-loading for those unsure of what it is and why/how we do it.

Our muscles & liver store carbohydrate in a form called glycogen, which is basically long sugar chains. Along with these sugar chains additional water is also stored, allowing us to become more hydrated. As we all probably know our muscles need glucose (sugars) to work at high intensities, thus the amount of sugar stored in our body may be the limiting factor to a good performance. Someone with full sugar stores is going to be able to ride longer than someone with near empty sugar stores. Which brings us back to carbo-loading. Sports Dietitians* recommend that before any endurance type race (> 90minutes of moderate, continuous exercise) an athlete Carbo-loads.

Carbo-loading refers to eating ~ 7-10g CHO per kg bodyweight for 3-5 days prior to competition. So for a 70kg athlete this would equate to 490-700g of carbohydrates per day. During these 3-5 days, CHO should make up 70-80% of your total daily energy, I.e. fat should be very limited, with protein contributing ~ 15%. This does not represent a normal healthy diet, however it will only be consumed for a limited period of time and a balanced diet should be resumed after the race. An athlete should expect to gain ~2kg during this loading time due to increased glycogen stores and increased body water. This gain should be seen as a positive sign that CHO stores are being increased.

An example of a very high CHO diet for a 70kg athlete could be as follows:

2 cups cereal with low fat milk
1 Banana
2 pieces toast with jam
1 glass of juice

Morning Tea:
1 Low fat breakfast bar / muffin
1 piece fruit

2 rolls, 1 with 100g turkey and salad and the other with banana and honey
1 200g tub low fat yoghurt
1 glass juice

Afternoon tea:
375ml low fat flavoured milk
1 crumpet with jam

2 Cups pasta with vegetable/ tomato based sauce
1 cup fruit & 200g creamed rice
Milo made with low fat milk

This meal plan provides approximately 650g CHO, 30g fat and 100g protein

*Burke, L. & Deakin, V. (2003) CLinical Sports Nutrition. McGraw Hill, Australia.

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For further details contact:

Ms Olivia Pilla
Accredited Practicing Dietitian
BNutrDiet & BHlthSc.