Carbo Loading: With More Carbohydrates For Better Performance In Sports

Before intense exertion such as a marathon or triathlon, athletes fill up their glycogen stores – they eat carbohydrates to have enough energy for the competition. We explain exactly how carbo loading works.

Fill up energy stores: Carbo Loading

In a way, carbohydrates are the fuel for the muscles. In competition or during intensive training, endurance athletes in particular burn a lot of calories that the body gets from glucose. The simple sugar is obtained from carbohydrates in food during digestion and stored in the liver and muscles as readily available glycogen. What the organism does not need it stores in the tissue as fat. Ample energy is stored in these depots, which would suffice for dozens of marathons. However, the body cannot use fats as easily as sugar, for which it needs more oxygen, among other things. Breathing rate increases, effort increases and performance decreases. However, this switching to the fat metabolism can be trained through long units and carbo loading also helps.

Why carbo loading at all?

The glycogen lasts for about 90 minutes at high loads, after which the breakdown of fats begins. Without prior training, switching can be very uncomfortable, marathon runners speak of the “man with the hammer” – they slow down or even have to stop. Long endurance units in the low basic range and fasting prepare the organism for this point: It learns to protect the sugar stores and to use fats more effectively as energy suppliers. This makes it easier for you to overcome the performance slump in competition.

This is how memory filling works

The classic principle of carbo-loading according to the Saltin or Sweden diet is to first empty the glycogen stores over several days through a low-carb diet and training and then to refill them in a very short time. This should lead to supercompensation with even better filled glycogen stores. Since the method can have some disadvantages, such as weakening the immune system, many athletes prefer the moderate version. In the last week before the competition, you rely on a carbohydrate-rich diet and train less, which also leads to replenishing the depots. Many top athletes otherwise rely on a low-carb diet in everyday life in order to continuously train their fat metabolism. However, this is not necessary for amateur athletes.

What low carb foods are there?

The following foods contain few carbohydrates and are also suitable for a sugar-free diet:

  • Fish and seafood (without breading): Flounder, mackerel, carp and co. are largely free of carbohydrates. You can also enjoy carbohydrate-free shrimp, lobster, crab and mussels.
  • Meat and poultry: Pure meat and poultry can also do without carbohydrates. Only processed meat and sausage products may contain a few carbohydrates. Usually in the form of sugar, but with meatballs it can also be breadcrumbs.
  • Eggs: There are hardly any carbohydrates in either the yolk or the egg white.
  • Dairy products: Hard and semi-hard cheese are foods without carbohydrates, and Camembert, Gorgonzola and Roquefort also contain negligible amounts. Small amounts of carbohydrates can be found in cream cheeses such as mascarpone as well as processed cheese. Milk and other natural dairy products such as yoghurt, quark, buttermilk and kefir contain lactose and therefore more carbohydrates (up to five grams, yoghurt with fruit contains more carbohydrates, i.e. sugar).
  • Vegetables: Unless they are very starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, or legumes, vegetables are low in carbohydrates. Green vegetables in particular such as lettuce, cucumbers, kale, spinach, or chard are low in carbohydrates. Herbs such as basil, cress, or parsley are also included.
  • Fruit: Most types of fruit contain fructose and therefore carbohydrates. However, relatively few carbohydrates are found in avocados, citrus fruits, and berries, as well as guavas and green melons. Low-carb nuts are macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, and almonds.
  • Beverages: Completely without carbohydrates is (mineral) water. Otherwise, unsweetened tea or coffee and light drinks with sweeteners are almost carbohydrate-free.

If you want to eat food without carbohydrates for a diet, make sure you eat a balanced, varied diet. It is not the carbohydrates that determine the weight loss success, but the overall ratio of calorie consumption and intake. Dietary fiber also counts – contained in abundance, e.g. B. in a muesli cake to the carbohydrates. They can help you lose weight because they are low in calories and keep you full for a long time. You can find ideas for a low-carbohydrate start to the day in our recipes for a low-carb breakfast.

Which carbohydrates should be “loaded”?

Complex carbohydrates from foods such as wholemeal bread and legumes are particularly recommended for regular sports nutrition. They fill you up and provide important nutrients. Food with a high glycemic index, such as pasta made from white flour or bananas, also makes sense for the carbohydrate diet immediately before a competition and in the first few hours afterward: They get into the blood sugar cycle more quickly and thus provide energy more quickly. At the famous pasta party on the evening before the marathon, there are therefore wheat noodles or desserts, also at the finish as a first meal.

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Written by John Myers

Professional Chef with 25 years of industry experience at the highest levels. Restaurant owner. Beverage Director with experience creating world-class nationally recognized cocktail programs. Food writer with a distinctive Chef-driven voice and point of view.

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