Never Load Carbohydrates!
As an athlete, the majority of my coaches recommended carbohydrate loading the night before a game. The thought process behind this is that by eating complex carbohydrates (that huge bowl of pasta) the night before your competition, your muscles will fill up with stored sugar (stored glucose is called glycogen). This is then supposed to provide your muscles with more fuel during your competition, allowing you to have better endurance and more energy. From the surface, it seems to make sense. However, this is why myths are created. They all look good on the surface, that’s why they have survived over the years. Once you begin to pull back some layers and dig a little deeper, the holes begin to appear.
There are three facts why you should never carbohydrate load before a competition:
FACT 1 - Your body does not store glucose (glycogen) very efficiently.
You have learned that your body is a “feed as it goes machine.” The only thing your body is efficient at storing is fat, because it provides so much energy. Your body stores glucose primarily in two places: your liver and your skeletal muscle (the muscle you use to play your sport.) At best, your liver can store about 100-120 grams of glucose. That’s only 400-480 calories (4 calories per gram of glucose)! This is crucial to understand because the glucose stored in your liver is your body’s source of blood sugar. When your blood sugar drops; your liver releases glucose into your blood to keep your blood sugar stable. When your liver runs out of glucose, it begins to convert amino acids (muscle) into sugar. This is how low blood sugar triggers your body to consume its muscle.
Your skeletal muscles can store more glucose then your liver, however when you carbohydrate load, you spike your blood sugar. This causes your body to store fat as well as the glucose in your muscles. Whenever there is an excess of glucose in your body, most likely some of it will be stored as fat. In addition, anytime you spike your blood sugar, you create unstable blood sugar levels. This goes against the purpose of having a solid Body Confidence Structure. Your Structure is designed to maintain stable blood sugar. Storing fat and having unstable blood sugar is not how you improve your performance.
FACT 2 - The stored sugar (glycogen) in your skeletal muscle cannot be used as blood sugar.
This philosophy also came into being because people always thought that all the stored glucose in your muscle could be utilized by your body for energy. There’s one big problem with this: it’s impossible. Your skeletal muscle lacks the enzyme glucose-6 phosphatase. Without this enzyme, your skeletal muscle cannot provide the rest of your body with glucose. The stored sugar in your skeletal muscle can ONLY be used by that muscle.
Each sport utilizes some muscles more than others, which means that once your more active muscles run out of stored sugar, they have no more fuel. These muscles now become reliant on your liver for energy. Most likely, if your muscles are out of fuel; your liver is out of its stored glucose. This then triggers your liver to begin converting amino acids (muscle) into sugar in order to provide your muscles with fuel. This entire process will negatively affect your performance.
FACT 3 - You will experience energy drops during competition
The first two facts will cause you to have energy crashes during your competition because the lack of available glucose in your body triggers low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is always accompanied with low energy. In addition, carbohydrate loading the night before will ensure that you begin your competition with unstable blood sugar. This will also cause energy challenges throughout.
All 3 facts clearly show why you should never carbohydrate load. It can only hinder your performance. The facts are that your body needs to be fed consistently before, during and after your competition. Approaching your nutrition like this will take your performance to a higher level, and leads us into the second strategy on getting your competitive edge.
Author of the NY Times Best Seller, Body Confidence
Creator and CEO of Venice Nutrition