Eat Smart

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Quick bites of nu­tri­tion news.

Is carb load­ing rec­om­mended any­more?

The prac­tice of carb load­ing started with marathon run­ners in their at­tempt to store as much mus­cle glyco­gen as pos­si­ble to use dur­ing com­pe­ti­tion. Orig­i­nally, it was com­bined with pe­ri­ods of low-carb di­et­ing and ex­haus­tive ex­er­cise. Per­for­mance anal­y­sis stud­ies found that this de­ple­tion/re­ple­tion pat­tern was un­nec­es­sary for run­ners to max­i­mize glyco­gen stor­age and even pro­duced an ir­reg­u­lar heart­beat in some ath­letes.

Some run­ners still prac­tice a mod­i­fied ver­sion of carb load­ing that calls for eat­ing a mod­er­ate amount of car­bo­hy­drates (40 to 60 per­cent of calo­ries from car­bo­hy­drates) dur­ing reg­u­lar train­ing. Two to three days be­fore com­pet­ing, the ath­lete bumps up her carb in­take to 70 per­cent of calo­ries from starchy car­bo­hy­drates, such as pasta, pota­toes, rice and bread.

For nor­mal ex­er­cise and less in­tense com­pe­ti­tion, carb load­ing is not nec­es­sary or rec­om­mended. A meal should be eaten three to four hours be­fore a com­pe­ti­tion, and ath­letes should per­form on a fairly empty but not hun­gry stom­ach and drink wa­ter be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter.

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