Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Carb Loading 101

With the London Marathon just 4 days away, the running side of training is done (I actually have just one easy 10 minute left!) all efforts now need to be concentrated on fueling. As I have been tapering for around a week already, my muscles are already starting to refill with Glycogen following the months of constant depletion from long, intense training. Physically I can feel this, especially over the last few days when during my last runs I have felt heavy! I have to keep reminding myself this is a good thing as fuel is what's going to get me round the course.

Carb loading is a term used frequently in running and endurance circles but what does it actually mean? Put simply, it the process of increasing the amount of calories you consume from Carbohydrates in order to maximize the amount of Glycogen in your muscles. This is essential in endurance events as Glycogen will be your main fuel source and is most efficiently converted into energy. Once depleted, you will be forced to burn fat and finally muscle which won't provide the same amount of energy and is slower to metabolise meaning you will find activity much more challenging despite levels of fitness.

Historically, it was advised to completely deplete Glycogen stores by consuming a low carb diet for around 4 days, then switching to high carbs to refill. Thankfully, more modern research has demonstrated there is no need to empty first (which is a great thing for all us Carb lovers!)

So how much Carbohydrate actually constitutes loading - well, it varies from person to person but typically you should aim for 4 grams of Carbs for each KG of body weight. So, if you weigh 60 kg  then you would need 240g. Each gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories (on average) so this is a total of 960 calories. You can start loading from 5 days out - I personally plan to start tomorrow as my diet is already pretty carb heavy. Try to distribute your intake evenly throughout the day and by meal to get the most from your diet.

You can get some level of Carbs from pretty much every food group out there (meat and fish being the exception for the most part) however the volume and quality varies dramatically. Below I have rounded up the highest carb containing foods by group, along with their volumes for reference. By focusing on these foods, you can ensure you're able to hit the needed intake amounts as focusing on lesser carb heavy foods, you will become full before hitting the requirement.

Fruit Measure Carb content in Grams
Blueberries 1/2 cup 25
Banana 1 Whole 27
Mango 1 Whole 31
Papaya 1 Whole 33
Pear 1 Whole 26
Vegetables Measure Carb content in Grams
Sweetcorn 1 cup 44
Potato 1 Whole 43
Sweet Potato 1 Whole 28
Grains Measure Carb content in Grams
Bagel 1 Whole 35 - 50
Bread 2 Slice's 25
Bulgar 1 Cup 34
Cous Cous 1 cup 36
Croissant 1 Whole 26
English Muffin 1 Whole 25
Muffin 1 Whole                     29 - 28
Noodles 1 Cup 40
Pita 1 Whole 33
Rice 1 cup 44
Spaghetti 1 cup 40
Beans Measure Carb content in Grams
Baked Beans 1/2 Cup 24
Misc Measure Carb content in Grams
Frozen Yogurt 1 Cup 36
Cake 1 piece                    34 - 50
Brownie 1 piece 36

Note that I whilst have included some desserts, the Carbs here come pretty much entirely from sugar which will be expended much quicker than those in whole foods. However, given what we're about to undertake, a little indulgence is as good for the body as it is for the mind!

Good luck to everyone running London or any other race this weekend - remember, all the hard work has already been done so relax, smile and enjoy!