Think post-workout replenishment, not prerace pasta
By Steve Born
With the first of your key races just around the corner, you're probably fine-tuning your training and nutrition to give yourself every possible advantage on race day. But have you begun carbo loading? If not, you should start now - not the night, or even the week, before your race.
You may be thinking, "Carbo loading? Now? Are you crazy?" Hear me out, though. True carbo loading throughout your entire training season will result in noticeably higher quality training sessions and better race performances. You'll also be recovering optimally between all of your workouts, which is equally important to race day performance.
The only way to truly "carbo load" is to do it g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y. Think of it this way: When you start your training season, you don't bust out with hill repeats and high- intensity speed work from the get-go, do you? No, you do base miles and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your training. Additionally, you don't wait until the week before the race to start training, do you? Of course not! The same applies to "carbo loading," which is more appropriately defined as maximizing muscle glycogen stores.
Muscle glycogen? What's that?
For the first 60-90 minutes of a workout or race, your primary fuel is muscle glycogen, a glucose polymer (complex carbohydrate) that contains tens of thousands of glucose units arranged in branched chains. As you deplete your stores of muscle glycogen, your body switches to burning fat reserves along with the carbohydrates and protein that you're consuming during exercise. You've got only a finite amount of this premium fuel, muscle glycogen, but its importance is hard to overstate. In fact, several studies have shown that the pre-exercise muscle glycogen level is the most important energy determinant for exercise performance.
Maximizing glycogen stores is easy!
Here's all you need to do:
1. Train intelligently and consistently.
2. "Refill the tank" with high-quality carbohydrates and protein ASAP after all of your workouts.
That's it! That's what true "carbo loading" is all about. It is NOT what or how much you eat the week or the night before the race. It is the replenishment of carbohydrates and protein within the first 60 minutes after ALL of your workouts in the weeks and months leading up to the race.
Carbohydrate replenishment as soon as possible after exercise, when your body is most receptive to carbohydrate uptake, maximizes both glycogen synthesis and storage.
Gain the edge now
The phrase "strike while the iron is hot" certainly applies to recovery: Before you get out of your workout clothes, before you hit the shower, and before you get horizontal, put some fuel back into your body. Do that when glycogen synthase is most active and you will enjoy a HUGE advantage over the athletes who blow off post-workout refueling or wait too long to do it.
Hammer Nutrition's Recoverite, or Whey Protein together with a quality carbohydrate source, will help you "refill the tank," effectively replenishing and maximizing muscle glycogen stores. That is the true definition of "carbo loading." Begin the process now. Your body will thank you, and the quality of your workouts and races will prove it. HN