Marathon & Carbohydrate Loading

Marathon & Carbohydrate Loading

“Carbohydrate loading” or “Carb Loading” a term that is well known among athletes of all sports, but especially in the world of running.

Most endurance athletes already know that they should eat pasta, rice, potatoes, or other high-carbohydrate foods before a marathon. However, below you will find a technique that every runner needs to know about carbohydrates that will help them reach the finish line in their best time.


What is Carbohydrate loading?
Carbohydrate loading is a strategy to increase the muscles’ glycogen stores that will be needed to fuel the activity. This techniques is potentially advantageous in endurance events lasting longer than 90 minutes (e.g. long-distance running, cycling or Ironman triathlon). Increasing liver and muscle glycogen stores before the event helps delay the onset of fatigue during prolonged exercise. Muscle glycogen provides a key fuel for training and racing a marathon.
Please note that: It is unlikely to benefit athletes whose event lasts less than 90 minutes. This is because muscle glycogen depletion would not be a limiting factor to their performance.


How Carbohydrate loading will improve your marathon performance?
Carbohydrate loading will help super load your muscles with glycogen, and it can increase endurance by 20%. If you decide to try carbohydrate loading, rehearse it during training to find out what works best for you. Never try anything new before an important competition. You may need to try the technique more than once; adjusting the types and amounts of foods you eat.
Carbohydrate loading will not help you run faster, but it can help you maintain your pace longer before tiring. If your event will last less than 90 continues minutes, you won’t get any advantage from carbohydrate loading.


What do I need to consume more?
The key is to load up on carbohydrate and not fat. Thus, you need to increase the proportion of your caloric consumption from carbohydrate.
Will this technique affect my body weight?
It is important to understand that gaining weight during this phase means that you are carbohydrate loading properly. You may be gain of up to 2,5kg.
Types of Carbohydrate Loading Regimes
There are two carbohydrate loading regimen,the Classic Regimen and the Modified Regimen.


The Classical 6 – Day Regimen
The classical 6 – day regimen involves 2 bouts of glycogen depleting exercise separated by 3 days of low–carbohydrate intake and then followed by 3 days of high carbohydrate intake,( boost your carbohydrate intake to 70% of your total calories), and minimize exercise (See the example below).



The Modified 7 day Regimen

More recently, researchers at the University of Western Australia, have found that equally high levels of glycogen can be achieved by taking in 10g of carbohydrate/kg of body weight over the course of a single day following a 3 minutes bout of high – intensity exercise. The advantage of this regimen is that only one instead of 6 days is needed to achieve high glycogen levels, and very little change to your usual training program needs to be made.



Dietitian Tip: During periods of intense training or competition, many athletes they become more susceptible to colds and infections, this is may be due to depress of the immune cell production. Thus, ensure you are consuming plenty of foods rich in immunity- boosting nutrients such as vitamin A, C E, zing, iron and magnesium.


Chrystalla Katelari
Clinical Dietitian Nutritionist, MSc