Do people find that carbo-loading actually works?

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30/10/2007 at 16:53

Hi there,

 I have carbo-loaded for my last four marathon events, and have found it to be extremely beneficial each time.  However, after talking to many different people in the build up to races I find that no-one seems to rate it as an important piece of preparation anymore.  Has a better method come along, or do people not know enough about carbo-loading to want to do it?

All opinions invited.....

30/10/2007 at 18:04
I've read that the depletion phase (where you cut out all carbs for a few days prior to the loading phase) is no longer considered necessary - it was based on a flawed study which showed depletion to be beneficial but which has since been disproved.  I'm pretty sure carb loading is still considered very beneficial however (I used it for my one marathon so far and will do so again in the future).
cougie    pirate
30/10/2007 at 18:21
I just like eating pasta to be honest.
30/10/2007 at 22:43

I have to admit, I don't see the first phase too much in the depletion manner - I look at it as time for the protein to assist in muscle repair, but I can see where you are coming from.

 I have a number of theories about the whole thing, but I want to see what others think too.

30/10/2007 at 22:44
not sure if it works but carbs (and some protein) were very much what my body was craving leading up to first marathon (just completed - hoorah!). I went right off fatty foods like chocolate and cake which is quite strange for me.
30/10/2007 at 22:45
Congratulations - which one did you complete?  I was at the fiasco called Chicago, but have done 3 others.
30/10/2007 at 22:51
When I did my first marathon in 1982 (I think!!!), carbo depletion was the name of the game. Basically, I did my longest run a week before the marathon and I started the race completely knackered. How times have changed, thank heavens. Someone started a thread in the last few days on a very similar subject to this. A normal healthy diet and a good pasta meal the day before seems to do the job nowadays. I have chicken with pasta and pesto with a lump of broccali. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmy.
30/10/2007 at 22:54
My 'last meal' is always spaghetti bolognese. That's the evening before. I only have the ability on the morning of the race to eat a couple of flapjacks or energy bars, due to feeling nauseous..... I don't know why I get nervous, I just do.
30/10/2007 at 23:14
I read an article once that while men can carbo load on cakes, sweets or any old rubbish  just the night before women have to eat good quality carbs for longer.
31/10/2007 at 08:47

I musat  say that eating a good pasta, bread dish a good 15 ish hours before a race works great for me.

I also have found that giving my Shreddies with milk and a banana a good 2 and half hours to digest before the race works superb.

I think it is a trail and error for everyone.

31/10/2007 at 11:26
Probably not the best idea, but I had leftover Domino Pizza once for breakfast, before a run and I felt super charged!
04/11/2007 at 22:43

If you thought that the carbo-loading -done properly of course- was to be beneficial to you and give you a better base to start the actual race with, then do you think you would try it?

Personally, I can't NOT do it now as it has become part of my routine, but most people seem to manage fairly well without it, so i can see why it is dying off, but to me, if the elite runners can still do it, then it's good enough for me....

04/11/2007 at 22:52

I've only once NOT carbo-loaded for a marathon, and I had a complete 'mare ... though the failure to carbo-load was probably less important than the 14 weeks without training due to injury

Like you, Vicki, I can't imagine NOT carbo-loading, and take the glycogen-loading theory as an act of faith. I like to have my main eating-day two days before the race, and a relatively light diet (but mainly carbohydrate) the day before. Having said that, I won't turn down the opportunity for a pizza-party the night before a marathon!

I don't bother carbo-loading for shorter races but make a bit of an effort the day before 16+ mile training runs or long leg-mashing sessions out in the fells. 

04/11/2007 at 22:56

Fell running always sounds fun - is it?  I should think that it provides a great fitness base to work from, marathon-wise.

 I too will not turn down pizza the night before a race, but I still mix it with some spag bol.  It always surprises me how dedicated I am toward the process, and how I just 'snap' right into the 2 different phases that i use - separating protein days from carb days.  And as everyone tells me - you are only an average runner - why do you do it?  I do it because I firmly believe it stops me from hitting the wall.

04/11/2007 at 23:00
Vicki - what do you mean by carbo loading "done properly".  There are different ideas as to what carbo loading should consist of - from depletion then super compensation through to just eating more for a couple of days and eating normally but cutting the training load as part of a taper.    I've never met anyone that doesn't think you should eat a reasonable amount the day before - so to that extent I don't think the idea of carbo loading is dying off - but maybe you mean something more specific ?
04/11/2007 at 23:02

Fell-running is for harder nutcases than me. I'm just a hillwalker who wears Inov8s, doesn't carry those ski-stick things, and sometimes runs the easy bits. But 20 miles of Highland undulations certainly feels like a good workout

I've never tried doing a depletion phase, though the idea of living on cheese and fillet steak for a couple of days is quite appealing. 

04/11/2007 at 23:04

I mean in a more specific term. The way I was taught was a 10 day period - split into a depletion and a replenishment phase, with a training taper cut down to no more than 3 or 4 miles a day at a gentle pace.

When I do the maths, as I am, for want of a better phrase 'Built like a brick s@/thouse', I burn off an average of 4000kcal per race, so I find that the carbo-loading works for me because I can get more fuel into my muscles by carbo-loading, as I am never going to manage eating 4000kcal on the day of the race - either before or after the race.

Does that help?

04/11/2007 at 23:05
Ive never done depletion but I have eaten up to 5 meals the day before a race. Carbo loading does work. And you get to have loads of nice mashed potato - yum
04/11/2007 at 23:06
It's ok to eat cheese and fillet steak - but by day 5, the night before you start the carbs, you are begging for something, anything that isn't meat, egg or cheese. Even quorn is a little too high in carbs to have
04/11/2007 at 23:20

According to the charts, I burn off well under 2,000 calories during a marathon (I'm built like a scale model of a person, and my running is so efficient that I'd probably use up more calories knitting) and suspect I'd get by quite nicely on a normal diet leading up to the race, a bite of brekky and a bottle of Lucozade Sport. For my last marathon, I didn't take anything during the race apart from a few swigs of the supplied isotonic drink, and was fine.

But that would be no fun at all  

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