Depending on the distance of you next event, carb loading may be beneficial. Carbohydrate loading refers to practices that aim to maximise muscle glycogen stores. Typical muscle glycogen resting values sit around 100-120 mmol/kg wet weight (ww) in trained muscle. Correctly carb loading can pump stores up to 150-250 mmol/kg ww. There are a few common misconceptions I often see associated with carb loading:
- You don’t need to carb load for a sprint distance triathlon. Your fuel take will sufficiently last you for the duration of the race, provided you consume carbohydrate in your everyday diet.
- Carb loading does not mean drinking a beer the night before a race! –sorry.
- Carb loading doesn’t mean eating junk food like pizza, bakery goods or hot chips. The focus is on carbohydrate, not fat or too much fibre. Swap that donut for a thick slice of raisin toast with honey or jam.
- Carbohydrate loading requires an exercise taper. If you continue to train hard right up to your event, there is little opportunity for our muscles to store extra glycogen.
- Carbohydrate loading doesn’t make you faster. It enhances performance by prolonging time before fatigue sets in, extends the duration of steady state exercise and improves performance over a set distance or workload.
Do your research
Do some research and find out what nutrition and hydration is available out on course and at what intervals. The more prepared you are going into the race, the less you leave to chance on the day. If the sports drink on the run isn’t something you’ve ever had before, consider trying it in training so that you know you’ll tolerate it during a race if you want (or need) to drink it.
Now is the time to practice your race nutrition plan in training. Don’t turn up on race day and wing it with a new gel or sports drink. Use brick sessions, long sessions or race simulations to test out what you plan to do on race day. This will iron out any kinks with the logistics of eating and drinking – for instance, trying to peel a banana while down on the drops is not something I’d recommend trying for the first time in a race J It will also ensure your tummy handles that form of nutrition and there are no surprises.
Race day nutrition also needs to be seen in the context of the preceding days, the pre-event meal, during the event and post-race recovery. Consider spending the time developing a personalised plan with your Accredited Sports Dietitian to optimise your performance racing.
Taryn Richardson, APD, AccSD Bach Hlth Sc (Nut & Diet) Hons; IOC dip sport nutr.
Taryn is an Accredited Sports Dietitian and Director of her private practice, Dietitian Approved. She spends half of her time on the Gold Coast working with the triathlon program at the Australian Institute of Sport (dream job!). The other half is spent consulting in Brisbane (or over Skype) spreading the good word on nutrition and helping everyday exercisers perform at their best.