To Load or not to Load?

A few people have written to ask me whether they should be carbohydrate loading before their ocean swimming event, and it is always a hot topic in endurance sports. This article will look at the basics of carbohydrate loading and whether it is relevant for the State Ocean Swim Series.

Carbohydrate loading is the practice of supersizing one’s carbohydrate (glycogen) stores in the lead up to an endurance event in a bid to improve performance.

Carbohydrate loading has been shown to be effective in certain situations, but because it also can have negative side effects, it is worth making sure that it really is necessary for your chosen event.

When to carbohydrate load

Studies has shown carbo loading to effective when:

  • The event is continuous in nature (e.g. a marathon not a football match)
  • The event has a duration longer than 90 minutes.

Side effects

Carbohydrate loading is often associated with feeling bloated, overfull, 2kg weight gain, and disturbed bowel functions.

You should practice carbohydrate loading in the lead up to a heavy training session or your “B” event so that you are more aware of what your body will go through and how you will cope with it.

How to carbohydrate load

  • Consume 8-10g of carbohydrate per kg body weight per day e.g. an 80kg man needs to consume 800-1000g of carbohydrate.
  • Carbohydrate load for the 3 days prior to your event e.g. event on Saturday, carb load from Wednesday
  • Rather than increasing the size of your regular meals, add in extra snacks so that you are having more frequent meals.
  • Use sugary drinks such as juice as a way to get extra carbs without “filling up”
  • Choose low fibre foods to prevent feeling bloating e.g. white bread instead of brown bread.

Do I need to carbohydrate load for the Ocean Swim Series?

With cut off times around 1hr40min for these events, carbohydrate loading will be unnecessary for the vast majority of competitors based on finishing time alone.

Even back of the pack swimmers are unlikely to be exercising at an intensity high enough to reduce their carbohydrate stores to a catastrophic level.

Quick fixes are certainly appealing, especially in endurance sports, but it is important to think critically about whether they are applicable to you. While nutrition can have a positive affect on your training and event day performance in many ways, carbohydrate loading is not the magic bullet on this occasion.

Article courtesy of Trailblazer Nutrition