Carb Loading for Runners and Endurance Sports

Carbohydrates are one of the most important components of a complete human diet.

Chemical compounds of carbon with hydrogen and oxygen are the main source of “raw materials” for energy production in the body. They allow you to maintain a normal level of glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue, constantly updating its reserves. In addition, thanks to carbohydrates, the optimal amount of sugar in the blood is maintained, which is necessary for the synthesis of many substances in the cells of the human body.

Many people mistakenly exaggerate negative effects of carbohydrates but in fact, not all carbohydrates are really harmful.

Basic units of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates comprise three groups of compounds: monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides, which is associated with the number of carbon atoms that make up the molecule. Monosaccharides (glucose, galactose, fructose) are absorbed very quickly. Complex sugars or disaccharides (sucrose, lactose, maltose) are broken down into simple sugars during the reaction. Polysaccharides (glycogen, pectins, fiber) are called slow carbohydrates since the process of their complete breakdown lasts several hours. Starch also belongs to them, which in the process of synthesis provides the body with glucose necessary for it.

The biological role of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, as well as proteins, take part in the construction of cells. They accumulate in the form of nutrients, and are also present in complex molecules and take part in the formation of ATP molecules, DNA and RNA chains.

Carbohydrates are the main energy substratum. 1 g of carbohydrates gives energy in 4 kcal and 0.4 ml of water.

They also maintain normal osmotic pressure and contribute to its regulation. Pressure also depends on blood sugar.

Carbohydrates are extremely important for the full sports nutrition of athletes. After all, they are able to provide aerobic and anaerobic ways of providing energy to the working muscle.

Carbohydrate requirement

Each person has different needs in the amount of carbon for the needs of the body. They depend on many factors, including the level of physical activity. Regularly training athletes need at least 8-10 g of carbohydrates per 1 kg of weight. Moreover, the amount of simple sugars should not exceed one-third of the total amount, the rest should be complex carbohydrates. They break down into simpler compounds for longer, therefore they are able to provide the body with energy “fuel” for a long time. In addition, polysaccharides are necessary for the coordinated and active work of the gastrointestinal tract and the normal functioning of the liver.

Mono- and disaccharides, due to their rapid absorption and entry into the bloodstream, have a high and medium glycemic index. In order to quickly restore strength, it is better to use them within two to three hours after training. A few hours after exercise, it is more advisable to take complex carbohydrates, which have a low glycemic index.

What is considered fast carbohydrates?

Fast (simple) carbohydrates are quickly absorbed by the body. They are contained in any sweet foods, not only confectionery (sweets, cakes, cookies, chocolate, honey, jam), but also fruits (bananas, grapes, peaches, apricots, watermelons, melons, cherries, dates, raisins), drinks (soda), stewed fruit, sweet tea, alcohol), vegetables with a sweet taste (potatoes, beets, turnips, pumpkin), ice cream, yeast bread, white polished rice. This list is quite long, but the principle of reference to it is the same – if the food is sweet, it contains simple carbohydrates.

In order for these products not to be deposited in fat, it is better to eat them in the morning in small portions. Another option – after eating such food, do some physical activity for burning acquired calories. With a strict diet and focus on losing weight, fast carbohydrates are completely excluded from the diet.

Of course, such an exception cannot become the norm. Sugar is necessary for us as a source of energy and mental activity. The best option is to observe the principles of a balanced diet.

Benefits of slow carbohydrates

Slow (complex) carbohydrates break down in the body much more slowly, and during the day they are gradually spent on active physical activity. The benefit of slow carbohydrates is also that they do not increase blood sugar. They can be consumed by people with diabetes.

The intake of slow carbohydrates is especially important for athletes and all people living a physically active life. By including such products in your meal 40-50 minutes before exercise, you will allow your body to increase endurance, strength, and activity during exercise

The list of slow carbohydrates (products containing them) will be arranged in the order of having meals (from breakfast to dinner):

  1. Cereals. You can eat any porridge in the morning, except for semolina and rice. Buckwheat, oat and pearl barley are especially useful;
  2. Whole grain bread. In the morning, you can eat a snack with a small piece of wholemeal bread;
  3. Pasta (hard varieties). You can it before lunch. Those seeking to lose weight should eat pasta without any sauces;
  4. Unsweetened vegetables and fruits. They can be eaten all day long without doing any harm to the figure (cabbage, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapefruits, kiwi, green apples, avocados);
  5. Legumes. They contain a large amount of protein, so they can be used as a side dish for dinner (beans, lentils, beans, soybeans).

Add proteins (meat, fish) and healthy fats (olive oil) to the right carbohydrates, and you will get a balanced diet. In this case, in no case you should refuse from small dessert pleasures once and for all. A small piece of cake in bad weather will only cheer you up. For the rest of the time, you’d better prefer healthy foods, use gentle methods of heat treatment, move a lot and think positively!