Carb loading is one of my favorite parts of racing! Yum yum yum.
But what’s the point of carb loading?
Carb loading is a strategy used by endurance athletes to maximize their storage of glycogen (or stored glucose) in their muscles and liver. Usually, an athlete would carb load when preparing for an activity lasting longer than 90-minutes. ¬†If the athlete can “fill up” their stores prior to race, they will be more likely to use those stores appropriately, rather than break down muscle for energy. There are plenty of research on different ways to carb load, but the simplest way is just to add more carbs to your diet a day or two prior to the race (of course, eating more carbs with out increasing your total caloric intake for the day).
So what do I eat?
Back in 2005, my husband and I attended the American College of Sports Medicine’s conference in Las Vegas. We went there for professional development, but found some personal paddling development there too! We went to a nutrition session taught by the dietitian who supported the Pittsburg Pirates and Penguins AND the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team. To be honest, I don’t remember what the session was about, but I do remember the question that we asked her afterward So we asked, “What is the perfect pre-event carb loading meal for an endurance athlete – like a paddler?” ¬†We were amazed with her opinion (and please note that this is HER opinion).
#1 Main Course ¬†- Pizza
Whoa! Pizza? Really?? YES! She said that Pizza is pretty easy to find anywhere in the U.S., and in most places that you will travel to compete. The pizza needs to be a “medium crust” – neither thin or way thick. That base should give you a decent amount of carbs right there. Stay light on the cheese, otherwise you will consume too much fat. You can put toppings, including meat, on it, but take it easy. Too much salty meat can upset your electrolyte balance, and too many veggies will provide too much fiber. Fibrous foods pull water from the body to the intestines in order to pass them through. Normally, this is great, but before a race it could cause “nervous stomach”, the runs, and potential cramping during your event. ¬†A Hawaiian Pizza (ham & pineapple, light on the cheese) is a great example of a good carb load pizza.
#2 Dessert – Soft Serve Ice Cream
SWEET! YAY! I love ice cream! However, there’s a catch. Not just any ice cream – just plain vanilla soft serve from McDonald’s or Dairy Queen. Those restaurants actually serve ice milk, a version of ice cream that is low in fat and high in sugar. This wonderful treat should top off your stores for the night.
We’ve been following this pre-event regime for years, and it has always worked for us. There are plenty of other carb load philosphies out there, and you can find some more info at this link here. ¬†BUT, please make sure to practice any carb load plan PRIOR to your event to test how your digestive system handles it. It would really suck to have the runs during a SUP race.