City2Surf carb loading: is it really necessary?
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We’re leading up to one of the biggest running events in our fine country – the City2Surf and it’s this time of year that people start talking about carb loading.
So what is carb loading and is it necessary for you in the lead up to City2Surf?
The AIS (Australian Institute of Sport), defines carb loading as “a strategy involving changes to training and nutrition that can maximise muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores prior to endurance competition”. For an athlete this might mean increasing carbohydrate intake to around 7-12g per kilo of body weight in the lead up to an event (1-4 days) whilst simultaneously tapering exercise to ensure the carbohydrate stays stored, and not utilised as an energy source.
In the above example, however, we’re talking about elite athletes, and the reality is that the 60,000 or more individuals running the City2Surf are doing it for a bit of fun not as a competition.
So is carb loading really something you need to do?
As a fun runner or even someone that maybe wants to give the race a nudge, carb loading in the days leading up to the event probably won’t do you many favours. The focus should be on improving the quality of carbohydrates you are taking in, instead of loading up unnecessarily.
Quality of quantity
Over the days leading up to City2Surf, ensuring you include high quality carbohydrates, in small amounts, with each meal will be the priority over carbohydrate loaded days immediately prior. In fact, quality before quantity is always a great philosophy for diet, health and life in general.
To give you a brief rundown of how this may look, we could aim to incorporate 2-3 of the following each day to improve consumption of quality sources of carbohydrates (labelled CHO).
- porridge (CHO) made with buckwheat or oats
- eggs with green vegetables (CHO) and quinoa (CHO)
- Smoothie with banana/apple/pear (CHO), oats (CHO), vegetables (CHO) and coconut water
- Apple (CHO) with nut butter
- yoghurt (CHO) with fruit (CHO) and linseeds
- rice crackers (CHO) with hummus
- Vegetable and lentil stir fry with brown rice (CHO)
- Open sandwich with sprouted/high quality gluten free bread (CHO)
- Fritters with pumpkin (CHO) mash
- Salmon, beetroot (CHO), watercress and goat cheese salad
- Steak with sweet potato (CHO) and greens
- Roast chicken with baked vegetables – parsnip, sweet potato, pumpkin (CHO)
What you’ll notice in the above is not only the focus on quality carbohydrates but these sources of carbohydrates do not include ingredients or foods such as wheat bread, pasta, muffins, heavy starchy potatoes which can be challenging for many people’s’ digestion and the resulting absorption of their nutrients. We’re best to keep these ingredients as our “sometimes carbs”.
The day prior to the City2Surf, which in reality is when most people within those 60,000 start thinking about their fuel sources, instead of loading up and making too many changes to your diet, stick to foods you know you can digest well. There is nothing worse than feeling full, bloated, or worse the need to evacuate mid way through Heartbreak Hill from over consuming food (namely carbs) the day prior. Frequent small meals like those suggested above may work better for your digestion rather than larger meals, particularly the dinner the night before.
Dinner on the eve prior to the race, should include a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Eliminate the wine that may normally go with it and try to avoid the sugary dessert.
While some theories in carb loading may say increasing these types of fuels (sugar) is ok before a race, you’re better off letting dinner digest, reassessing if you’re truly hungry and if so going for a piece of fruit with a dollop of yoghurt to top up rather than rationalising a chunk of cake with the “I’ll need the extra fuel tomorrow and will burn it off anyway” argument.
If dinner is relatively early, ensure you wake early on Sunday prior to City2Surf to consume a small breakfast too. Bananas are one of the common sources of easily digestible fuel runners lean toward but their energy will be utilised within 30-60 minutes, so they’re ideally consumed within that time frame prior to the race. Instead of a big pre-City2Surf brekky aim for carbohydrates you know your body will respond well to.
Early breakfast sources on race day may include:
- muesli with a small amount of milk, almond milk or a dollop of yoghurt
- piece of toast with nut butter and slices of banana
- fried egg with a small cup of quinoa or brown rice and sea salt
Whether you’re a punter or an athlete, the key is to fuel yourself with good nutrition to see you through the 14km, hydrate well throughout and be sure to refuel with a well balanced meal once the race is done. Remembering quality over quantity is the key to great energy on your City2Surf days, for optimal health and beyond.
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