I recently completed the course work to become qualified for Athletic TIPS Certification. Among the many topics covered, there was a review of nutrition and training strategies for the week before a competition. These tips are especially important for endurance events of at least 30 minutes or more – road running races of 5K, 10K, or longer, for instance.
Carbohydrate loading works. It can add up to a 20% improvement in performance. (Of course, it works along with, not as a substitute for, proper conditioning.)
Here’s the basic outline of how to time your workouts and nutrient intake.
Day 6 before the event – hard workout to exhaustion
Days 5 and 4 before the event – moderate exercise
Days 3 and 2 before the event – light exercise
Day 1 before the event – total rest
Day 6 before the event – usual nutrient intake (which should be about 50% of calories from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, 30% from fat)
Days 5 and 4 before the event – increase calories from carbohydrates to 55% of total, decrease protein and fat accordingly
Days 3, 2 and 1 before the event – increase calories from carbohydrates to 70-75% of total, decrease fat and protein accordingly
Make sure to drink a lot of water too!
NOTE: A “usual” diet that obtains 50% of its calories from carbohydrates is not a low-carb diet and may be unhealthy for many people. Carbohydrates serve as fuel for action; the amount you should consume is determined by your level of physical activity. Only a person who regularly exercises (45 minutes or more 4-5 times per week) should consume a diet that provides half of its calories from carbs.
A MEAL THAT PROVIDES 50% of CALORIES IN THE FROM OF CARBOHYDRATES, for example, could be a piece of salmon on a bed of rice, PLUS a baked potato. You can add an unlimited number of raw or steamed vegetables; they have few calories and don’t alter the overall nutrient balance that much.
A MEAL THAT PROVIDES 70-75% OF ITS CALORIES IN THE FORM OF CARBOHYDRATES, for example, could be a bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of grated parmesan. You can add an unlimited number of raw or steamed vegetables; they have few calories and don’t alter the overall nutrient balance that much.