Carbohydrate Loading Benefits Can Last Several Days

An important part of your energy for vigorous exercise comes from the sugar stored inside muscle cells. When you run out of stored muscle sugar, your muscles may hurt and be more difficult to coordinate. Carbohydrate loading is a technique athletes use to increase the stored sugar in their muscles. Four days before a competition, they exercise vigorously and then for the next three days, they eat their normal diet plus large amounts of extra carbohydrates in foods such as bread, spaghetti and potatoes. A recent study shows that after carbohydrate loading, the muscles will be full of extra sugar for up to five days (European Journal of Applied Physiology, February 2007).

At three, five and seven days of limited activity after the loading process, the researchers cut out pieces of muscle and analyzed the sugar content. Only at seven days post-loading did muscle sugar concentrations drop significantly. This means that if your competition is delayed, you can expect the effects of carbohydrate loading to last up to five days.

Eating a high-carbohydrate meal, such as pasta, the night before a competition helps to load muscles maximally with sugar. The pre-race meal cannot load muscles as it takes at least 10 hours to refill muscles with sugar. However, on race day, the athletes may pay a price because high carbohydrate, low-fiber foods can cause constipation. So they have to stand in long lines, waiting to use the portable johns. Had they eaten their carbohydrates in high-fiber foods the night before, they could have concentrated better on their upcoming competition. More


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