Carbohydrate Loading


Because carbohydrate is the primary energy source in the diet for high-intensity aerobic endurance activity (like a marathon or long distance swimming), loading the body with extra carbohydrate stores postpones fatigue and improves performance.

Research Results:

Carbohydrate loading can improve endurance in athletes such as marathon runners and long distance swimmers. There is no evidence that carbohydrate loading provides any benefit for activities lasting less than one hour.

What it is:

Carbohydrate loading combines a dietary and activity plan to increase the amount of carbohydrate your muscles can store.

Carbohydrate food sources include:

  • Breads and rolls (choose whole grain)
  • Cereals--dry and cooked (Bran, oat or wheat cereals are high in fiber)
  • Crackers (Stick to the reduced fat or fat free varieties)
  • Dry beans, peas, and lentils
  • Fruit
  • Pasta or Noodles
  • Pretzels
  • Rice
  • Vegetables

Carbohydrate Loading
Time Before Event Dietary Plan Activity Plan
7 days 60–65% carbohydrates high intensity activity*
6 days 60–65% carbohydrates reduce activity
5 days 60–65% carbohydrates reduce activity
4 days 70% carbohydrates reduce activity
3 days 70–80% carbohydrates reduce activity
2 days 70–80% carbohydrates reduce activity
1 day 70–80% carbohydrates rest
3–4 hours high carbohydrate light meal** EVENT

*The activity should be the same type of activity you will be doing in the competition, because it uses the muscles you want to load

**The purpose of the meal is to provide food energy and water to ensure optimal hydration and energy to begin to fuel the activity. The meal should contain 85–200 grams carbohydrate.

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