What Is Carbohydrate Loading: Who Needs It And Why? Our Expert Explains


What Is Carbohydrate Loading: Who Needs It And Why? Our Expert Explains

It is a competitive world out there – be it work, education or athletics. Everyone out there is trying to reach new heights by virtue of improved performance and hard work. Athletes aim to maximize their output with the help of a nutritional strategy called carb loading. This nutritional tool is used by athletes to improve their performance. The technique is all about adjusting diet and physical activity levels to boost the amount of carbohydrates stored in the body.

What is carbohydrate loading?

Clinical Nutritionist Dr Rupali Dutta says, “Carbohydrate loading is for athletes who are into endurance sports like running. They use this technique for maximizing the glycogen content in the muscles in the liver. Glycogen is the primary fuel for muscles. So when we look at endurance sports, it is important to have good glycogen content in the body to be able to run the distance. So any event that last for more than 90 minutes at a stretch, carbohydrate loading is required.”


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“Carbohydrates are the main fuel required for your activity. So your carbohydrate intake will depend on the exercises of your day. So it depends on the kind of sport you are in and what kind of training you are receiving for it,” Dr Dutta added.

How does carbohydrate loading work?

Dr Dutta stressed on the importance of glycogen stored in the body to be able to perform better. She says that if you are exercising at a steady pace and intensity, carbohydrate loading will up your output by 20%. This means that if you are running 20 miles without exhaustion, carbohydrate loading will increase your output by 4 miles without any exhaustion. Carbohydrate loading is usually required for running and cycling. It differs for both men and women.

Dr Rupali says that in women, it is related to their menstrual cycles. “A research shows that 2 weeks before and after menstruation, carbohydrate loading is not quite effective.”

What to eat for carbohydrate loading? 

“For carbohydrate loading, athletes need to fill up on pure carbs. They need to fill up on 8-10 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight for carb loading. For 3 days, the amount of exercising needs to be reduced. Athletes must go on 3 days of complete rest and must fill up on a lot of pure carbs during this time to fill up their glycogen stores. You could also try eating carbs immediately after exercising and let that get stored in the body,” Dr Rupali said.

During your running session, you should choose something which fills you with 30-60 grams of carbs per hour and it should be made up of multiple carbs to get maximum output. It should be a mixture of low glycemic index and high glycemic index carbs. “So you can have roti for lunch and pasta for dinner,” Dr Rupali explained.

Athletes can fill up on energy drinks, candy, jam, honey, energy gels, chocolates, juices, sugar or jaggery. Sit with your sports nutritionist and then decide what you will be filling up on.

Dr Rupali explains the many problems that you can face during carbohydrate loading. She says, “You can feel bloated, indigestion, constipation because your intestines are being filled up on carbs. To hold so much carbs and glycogen in the body, water is required. So feeling heavier than usual is normal.”

(Dr Rupali Dutta is a Clinical Nutritionist)

​Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.


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