The truth about carb loading for runners

Emma Barraclough lays out some truths on the often complicated world of carbs...

by Emma Barraclough

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What is carb loading?

Emma Barraclough is a Sports Nutritionist at SiS ( She has worked with Great Britain Ice Hockey since 2006 and provided nutritional consultancy support to athletes in a range of sports including running, triathlon and rugby. She regularly represents Great Britain as an age group triathlete and has completed six Ironman.

What is carb loading?

Carb loading is the process of maximising your glycogen stores in preparation for a long endurance event, usually something longer than 90 minutes in duration. You can only store so much carbohydrate in the body, so it makes sense to maximise those stores to delay fatigue and optimise your performance.

During your event, you will be able to maximally uptake 60g of carbohydrate per hour. This only equates to 240kcal, which will not meet the amount of calories you will burn as you run, which is likely to be at least 400kcal per hour. Therefore you will need to be drawing on your muscle glycogen stores to keep you running.

Carb loading is more than just having a bowl of pasta the night before. It needs to be something that you focus on for the 48 hours prior to your event starting. It also isn’t eating as much as possible for the two days before your event which will only weigh you down and leave you feeling heavy and bloated.

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