Theoretically speaking, marathon runners do need carb loading but practically, it would depend on a lot of things. Most of the marathon runners believe that they need to have excess of carbs to improve the stamina.
Often the science behind carb loading or what exactly comes under the category of good carbs has to be understood well otherwise it might simply backfire by reducing your performance or even making you put on more fat than what you started off with.
SO WHAT IS CARB LOADING AND WHEN IS IT REALLY REQUIRED?
Carbohydrates, or what are commonly called just ‘carbs’, in general are the body’s main fuel and critical to a distance runners’ diet. But carbohydrate loading is effective only for endurance events which last beyond 90 minutes, like half marathons, ultra marathons and triathlons. It is only beyond these 90 minutes of intense activity that the muscles become depleted of glycogen (stored glucose) which needs to be repleted. Carb loading means ‘to store extra glycogen’ which can be used by the body when really required.
SMALL EVENTS LIKE 5K AND 10K RUNNING DO NOT REQUIRE A CARB LOADING SINCE THE EFFORTS ARE NOT SO MUCH THAT IT WILL DEPLETE THE MUSCLE GLYCOGEN.
Any extra glycogen can actually be detrimental as it can jeopardise the performance due to muscle stiffness.
BEST DIET FOR IMPROVING PERFORMANCE
Carb loading essentially should be as a component during an actual event. During the times of training the aim should be to improve the performance by getting used to following a particular pattern of eating which can be easily adapted to during the real event.
THE MOST SUITABLE DIET WILL BE QUITE SPECIFIC TO SEVERAL FACTORS LIKE YOUR INITIAL BODY WEIGHT, YOUR HEIGHT AND WEIGHT RATIO, THE DISTRIBUTION OF FAT IN THE BODY, AMOUNTS OF MUSCLES, YOUR HYDRATION LEVELS AND HOW MUCH OF TRAINING IS DONE EVERYDAY.
6 FOCUS POINTS FOR CORRECT DIET TO IMPROVE PERFORMANCE
- Don’t just focus on carbs but also protein – while carbs improve the performance during an event, protein plays a very important role in muscle recovery. Try to make it a point to consume good quality protein which comes from milk and milk products, egg, fish and chicken. Legumes and nuts do serve the same purpose but keep a combination of the above protein sources along with them.
- 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day- any rigorous exercise usually generates oxidants in the body which need to be detoxified and fruits and vegetables contain these antioxindants. Therefore, vegetables in cooked and raw form and fruits in the whole form are the best.
- Keep yourself well hydrated- this is the most important thing that cannot be ignored by runners at all. A minimum of 3 litres of water must be consumed per day. If the running leaves you sweating a lot then you can replenish the salts by adding electrolytes into the water.
- Make it a point to drink in a running event- events of running beyond 60 mins require hydration so carry a bottle of water while running. It might be too much of a burden to begin with but you will eventually get used to it.
- Rest – giving your body rest to recover for better performance is a must. One day of the week should be the rest day where no exercise is done. This is very crucial to improve performance
- Getting sleep- you need to complete 5-6 hours of sound sleep. This is going to keep the stress hormones in check which are often stimulated due to the running activity
Stay tuned, because I will be talking about –
Hydration during running
Effects of stimulants on the performance
How to go about carb losing