Carbohydrate Loading Protocol

When it comes to peak performance in exercise and sport, carbohydrates play a key role in our bodies ability to function not only at the highest level, but also at the most efficient level.

Carbohydrates as we know them in sources such as rice, potatoes and breads are converted into glycogen once digested. These are stored as muscle glycogen in reserves, with the intention to be utilised for a fast burning fuel during bouts of exercise.

What is a Carbohydrate Loading Protocol?

So, if carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for our body, and they are stored in reserve within the muscles as muscle glycogen, what exactly is a Carbohydrate Loading Protocol, and what does that achieve?

Essentially, carbohydrate loading is the process of accurately measuring and loading the body with carbohydrates or fuel in the days prior to competition, to ensure your body is at its peak from a fuel perspective for performance.

This allows our body with ample storage of muscle glycogen to burn throughout long bouts of exercise.

How Can a Carbohydrate Loading Protocol Benefit Performance?

Having large amounts of muscle glycogen allows us to not only to perform at a higher rate, but also at a more efficient rate, as we do not have to go through the process of burning other fuel sources, such as fats.

So, with that being said, what makes a carbohydrate loading protocol so beneficial compared to the alternative of just consuming excessive amounts of carbohydrates?

In reality the latter is far from the most effective and efficient ways to 'carb up'. The goal of Carbohydrate Loading is to essential saturate our muscles with glycogen and to temporarily increase our normal resting levels of muscle glycogen.

Research has found the best way to allow our body to temporarily increase its storage capacity is to stimulate the enzyme glycogen synthase. This enzyme is primary responsible for converting glucose into glycogen. Glucose in our body is known as blood sugar, so up-regulating glycogen synthase results in our body being able to produce and store more blood sugar or glucose as our fuel glycogen in the muscles.

What Athletes Should Carbohydrate Load?

For the most part, athletes who are performing any exercise at a high level or a excess of one hour should consider carbohydrate loading. These athletes are like to benefit more than a sprinter for example, as they performing exercise which is going to primarily use carbohydrates, and doing it for an extended period of time. Meaning that they may run the risk of depleting their muscle glycogen stores if they do not adequately prepare.

These athletes could come from sports such as AFL football, marathon runners or essentially any sport in which you are likely going to be using your aerobic system for an extend period.

Carbohydrate Loading Protocol

A carbohydrate loading protocol is somewhat more than just eating a surplus of carbs in the days prior. An ideal scenario for carbohydrate loading is going to start roughly 4 days out from competition.

Throughout these 4 days, a higher carbohydrate diet is going to be required. Somewhere between 7-12g of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight has been recommended by the AIS. So, for a 80kg male this is anywhere in the range of 550g-960g of carbohydrates. That's a lot of carbs!

During this stage dietary fats and proteins should be maintained at moderate levels, as while they are very important, they are not the number one priority for the relatively short period of time we are carbohydrate loading.

Throughout this 4 day period, and even a few days prior exercise should taper off, allowing our muscles to recover and no excessive amounts of muscle glycogen be sacrificed.

With the significant increase in carbohydrates, increasing water is also recommended to ensure we stay well hydrated.

Carb Loading Daily Diet

Here's a rough idea of how a 80kg males diet over the 4 days of the load may look:

Meal 1

  • 120g Rolled Oats
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Serve Syntha 6 MRP
  • Carbs: 115g
  • Proteins: 40g
  • Fats: 15g

Meal 2

  • 1 Cup Orange Juice
  • Honey Sandwich
  • Carbs: 87g
  • Proteins: 8g
  • Fats: 2g

Meal 3

  • 100g Grilled Chicken Breast
  • 250g Cooked White Rice
  • .5 Cups Fibrous Veggies
  • Carbs: 77g
  • Proteins: 37g
  • Fats: 4g

Meal 4

  • 2 Serves Syntha 6 MRP.
  • 1.5 Cup Frozen Berries.
  • 2 Cups Lite Milk.
  • Carbs: 77g
  • Proteins: 62g
  • Fats: 18g

Meal 5

  • 100g Grilled Chicken Breast
  • 250g Cooked White Rice
  • 2 TBSP of Sauces
  • 1 Cup Orange Juice
  • Carbs: 133g
  • Proteins: 37g
  • Fats: 4g

Meal 6

  • 1 Serve Syntha 6 MRP.
  • 1 Serve Cyborg Sport Rocket Fuel.
  • 2 Cups Lite Milk
  • 1 Cup Frozen Berries.
  • Carbs: 100g
  • Proteins: 40g
  • Fats: 12g

Daily Total

  • Carbs: 589g
  • Proteins: 224g
  • Fats: 55g

As you can see from the above table, a Carbohydrate Loading Protocol is very food intensive! From this daily diet over in the 4 days prior you can expect to intake: 589g of carbohydrates per day, along with 224g of protein, and 55g of fats.

As you can see the carbohydrate intake is on the lower end of the AIS recommendations, and protein is kept relatively high.

If you choose to increase your carbohydrate intake throughout this process, simply add more existing carbohydrate sources to you meals. Spartansuppz recommends reducing protein intake if you choose to increase carbs significantly, not lower than 150g however.

What Supplements do you recommend for a Carbohydrate Loading Protocol?

During this carb load we think a product such as Gylcolog from Blackstone Labs is a great addition. Glycolog will help mimic the role of Insulin within the body, and ensure you are getting maximal muscle glycogen storage from the carbohydrates you are taking in.

A good Carbohydrate powder can also be very beneficial during a carb load.

As they offer a very convenient fast absorbing carbohydrate source to get your daily requirements up. We believe Rocket Fuel from Cyborg Sport is a great option for this.

Lastly, to help add some flavour to otherwise bland meals, a decent Meal Replacement Shake, such as Syntha 6 from BSN is a great addition. As it offers a complete blend of Proteins, Carbohydrates and fats as well as lot of other nutrients.

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