CarbLoading For Athletes

Everyone needs carbs to live. Carbohydrates are made out of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They give us fuel and energy to carry out daily activities. Carbohydrate loading (or also known as carb-loading) is a diet that typically athletes will follow in order to store more energy in their bodies than normal, to help maintain their endurance while competing.  Examples of carbohydrates are starches and sugars. Such as potatoes and bread or desserts. To correctly carb load you need to take out the foods in your diet that are higher in fat, like butters and cheese.

Carbohydrate loading didn’t start until the late 1900s when it the relation of glycogen and endurance was discovered by Swedish physiologist named Gunvar Ahlborg. He discovered this by taking 6 male volunteers and putting them through test, accounting for their age, height, weight, and oxygen uptake. The test first consisted of a 12-14 overnight fast before going through a series of cycling. Before the exercise the volunteers ate a weight maintain diet that was 55% carbs, 30% fat, and 15% protein (2,400-4,00 kcal). Oxygen uptake was checked at the 40, 90, 180, and 240 minute time intervals. At the end of the exercise, it was found that glucose levels were about 70 % of the basal value. This study showed how carbohydrates can positively affect the endurance of an athlete, and that you can store a surplus of carbohydrates in your muscles after depleting them from carbs. 

Nutrition became a popular concept in the 1980s when the government published Dietary guidelines for Americans. This consist of guidance and awareness of what good nutrition should look like. The government began doing this for disease prevention and decreasing health costs. This made Americans want to change to a healthier lifestyle. During this time carbohydrate loading in athletes was also becoming popular. Jim White’s article in Today’s Dietitian talks about how it was a fad to hate on carbohydrates and it confused people on the importance of carbohydrates for athletes.  

Dietary Guidlines for Americans

If you are not an athlete and are considering a carb loading diet, I wouldn’t suggest it as it would have more harmful attributes to you than benefits. Carb loading can put your body in a weaker state, raise your blood pressure, and cause digestive discomfort. So, I would say that carbohydrate loading is not for everyone. Carb loading also involves experimenting to know how many carbs work for you. It is usually measured by 8 to 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. For example, if you are a 130lb athlete you should be trying to eat between 472g – 708g of carbohydrates. 

Carb loading can be very tricky. However, there are many athletes that disagree with carb loading and don’t find it necessary. Carb loading is important for athletes like marathon runners and swimmers, but no so much for basketball players. Basketball players should make sure that at least 55% of their diets come from carbohydrates like fruit and potatoes, but they don’t have to necessarily carb load before a game. Keeping carbs in their diet is important, because the daily practices and games can start adding up and cause fatigue. I think that carb loading as much as a marathon runner should would just make a basketball player feel really sluggish. Which is the opposite of what they should feel like before a game. 

Martina Navratilova, a famous tennis player from Prague, Czechia, is well known for her commitment to carbohydrate loading diets. Navratilova was diagnosed with toxoplasmosis. This is an infection caused by a single celled parasite called toxoplasma gondii. She mentions in an interview that after suffering from this parasite that it affected her stamina and endurance. This influenced her to try to strengthen her health with carb loading and eating habits. She speaks out about trying to stay has natural and organic as possible. That the more a food is “processed and bleached” the less of an effect it has to your body. Her diet consists of whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit. This is what kept her healthy through her 40’s competing. 

 Lebron James also is an advocate for organic eating, cutting down sugars during playoffs, and ramping up carbs for quicker recovery between games. He states that he goes heavy on the carbs due to the number of calories he is burning during a game and that he needs to keep his energy. His breakfast consists of things like yogurt, eggs, and chicken. For dinner he eats meals such as steak, potatoes, and salads.  

            Personally, I have also had positive experiences with carb loading. Your diet can truly affect your performance and how you feel while competing. At first, I didn’t realize how well it was benefitting me until I stopped eating the right foods. Then there was a dramatic change in the way my body felt, as I felt winded or gassed. Eating good does help your body with recovery and carbs help you quickly catch up to all of the calories that I burn off in practice and in games. 

Some of the foods that I eat are: 

 Banana pancakes

–       Oatmeal

–       Yogurt

–       Chicken and rice

–       Sweet Potatoes

–       Salmon

–       Peanut butter jelly sandwiches

   I also like to eat snacks before a workout. Bananas and rice Krispy treats are good to eat to give you a boost of energy, while at the same time not being very heavy. Bananas also have potassium and can help prevent muscle cramps.   

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