By Dennis B. Weis
The Yukon Hercules
The carbohydrate-loading technique was developed by a Swedish exercise physiologist, Eric Hultman, as a means by which athletes could store more carbohydrates (glycogen) in the muscle tissue than normal.
It has been determined through research that carbohydrate, in form of glycogen, is stored in the muscle at 1.75 grams per 100 grams of muscle.
After the first three days of the depletion phase of the carbohydrate-loading technique, the glycogen levels in the body drop down to approximately ½ gram per 100 grams of muscle. The best part comes upon completion of the three-day carbing-up phase.
Glycogen capacities in the muscle have now increased to as much as 3-5 grams per 100 grams of muscle. This is a marked increase of 70-185 percent above normal.
This means that athletes will have a glucose/glycogen saturation for their chosen athletic event, be it a marathon or some other endurance sport.
HOW CARBOHYDRATE LOADING WORKS
Begin the carbohydrate-loading technique six days prior to the event.
The Carb Depletion Phase: Days 1, 2, and 3
Depletion of the carbohydrates stored in the muscle is efficiently accomplished by high-intensity/high-volume exercise activity and carefully controlled nutrition.
You can choose from many training routines to accomplish carbohydrate depletion. If you're training in the off-season and desire to participate in an endurance sport, you might perform high-volume training. 10-12 sets per muscle group, 8-15 reps per set, and 4-5 sets per exercise. If you're a powerlifter, you may decide to use training loads of 84-88 percent of 1-rep maximum for numerous sets of 6-8 reps in the 3 powerlifts and some additional assistance exercises, using 80 percent of a 1-rep maximum in the chosen exercise for a few sets of 12-14 repetitions.
Basically, you will want to perform workouts that will burn up glycogen as energy substrate at a rate of 10-20 calories per minute over a daily 2-hour time period. Each major body part should be worked for approximately 45 minutes. The key to assuring yourself of total carbohydrate completion is to work each body part as hard and fast as possible. Therefore, you will not work all the body parts in one workout but will find it of more benefit to use a split routine in which you work one or two body parts to the absolute maximum.
On the next two days (2 and 3), your workouts should be light to moderate in intensity due to the depletion in existing strength levels.
Controlled eating is very important to the success of both the depletion and carbing-up phases of carbohydrate loading. During the three-day depletion phase, you should eat a very high protein diet. In other words, eliminate most of your carbohydrate sources except for 50 grams (200 calories) daily, which is vital for proper brain functioning. The brain demands 50 or so grams of glucose per day, and this is quite in line with the conversion of carbohydrate (glycogen), which converts to blood glucose at a rate of 2 grams (8 calories) per hour. Your selection of foods should come from complete proteins, which contain no saturated fats.
It is interesting to note that for every gram of glycogen you burn up, three grams of water accompany it.
More than likely you will notice a drop in your existing body weight, but be assured that it is probably water weight. You should schedule five to six feedings per day, and these feedings should be three to four hours apart.
A note on the 50-grams-per-day carbohydrate requirement is necessary. Rather than eating all your carbohydrates (50 grams) at one meal, it is better to eat 25 grams with an early morning protein feeing and the remaining 25 grams during a late afternoon or evening protein meal.
Carbohydrate or glycogen depletion in the muscle can't really be monitored accurately. You can only hope that a regimen of hard and fast training will accomplish it. However, you can monitor the blood glucose by using chemically treated papers called keto sticks. These papers are dipped or placed in a urine sample you have taken; the deeper the shade of purple, the less glucose you have in your blood.
The Carbing-Up Phase: Days 4, 5, and 6
During these last three days of the carbohydrate-loading technique, all exercise activity should cease to allow maximal carbohydrate saturation within the muscle cells. An important point to remember here is that you will have to decrease your daily caloric intake because your energy requirements are now lower due to the termination of the workout sessions.
Take in only enough calories to meet your estimated daily caloric expenditure. You are not interested in gaining muscle weight or losing body fat, but rather in maintaining your current body weight. The opposite of what you experienced in the depletion phase regarding fluctuations in body weight will occur during this phase: you may find yourself a few pounds heavier. This is generally the result of a water retention problem stemming from the massive amounts of carbohydrates you've consumed (with three parts water attaching to one part carbohydrate). This problem will alleviate itself after the scheduled athletic event.
During these three carb-up days, eat loads of complex carbohydrates along with some complete proteins and unsaturated fats. Your daily ratio of these nutrients should be as follows: carbs, 70 percent; proteins 25 percent; fats, 5 percent.
Note that there are some differences between how a man should approach the carbing-up phase and how a woman should do so. Some women can totally carb up in a 24-hour period, whereas a 200-pound man will need all 3 days, or 72 hours, in which to accomplish this critical phase of carbohydrate-loading. With this in mind, it would be a good idea to practice the carbohydrate-loading technique once or twice during the year just to see how your body reacts to it, rather than trying it for the very first time before an important athletic event and experiencing some disappointments.
Another noted difference in the approach to carbing up for men and women has to do with simple sugars. When a man takes in 20 percent or more of this daily calories in the form of simple sugars, the liver immediately converts the simple sugars to triglycerides or fat. This does not generally happen in women. Testosterone levels are responsible in part for this. The normal male produces 2.5-10 mg a day. This fact alone should make it clear why a woman can't develop large muscle mass under normal conditions.
Eat simple (but only in the percentage listed earlier in this chapter) and complex carbs. Avoid those carbs that are super-high in fiber. Moderation is the key here. Avoid fats except for the daily allowance percentage. Load up on apples, melons, strawberries, whole wheat pancakes, pasta, potatoes, rice, grains, waffles, etc.
Spread your meals out as mentioned for the depletion phase. This is carbohydrate loading at its optimum. For several reasons, you should not attempt carb loading more than three to four times a year:
1. During the first three days there is a loss of fiber content due to the lack of fibrous complex carbohydrates, which in turn causes diarrhea to occur occasionally.
2. During the depletion phase of carbohydrate loading, there are some radical changes in ratio quotas of the carbs and proteins, and this has a diuretic effect (promoting the discharge of urine) on the body. As a result, your body becomes deficient in mineral potassium.
3. There is a slight increase in the triglycerides (fat) stored in the body due to the rather sudden loss of carbohydrate stores, which are in part necessary for intercellular fat metabolizing.
4. When not enough carbohydrate (glycogen) is stored in the muscles and liver, protein from the muscles is converted to an energy source. In order to convert the protein into an energy source, the nitrogen is stripped from the protein molecules. The remaining carbon and oxygen molecules combine to create an energy source much like that of the carbohydrate.
The problem arises with the excess nitrogen previously stripped from the protein molecules. The isolated nitrogen molecules from a toxic ammonia compound, which is rejected by the liver into the bloodstream. This rather toxic compound travels through the bloodstream and eventually is filtered through the kidneys. The end result, of course, is an overworked liver and kidney, and this is simply not healthy when carried to an extreme.
The Day of the Athletic Event
1. Don't miss a scheduled meal on this day. Keep in mind that four to five hours should elapse between your final meal and the scheduled competition. This will allow for maximum digestion of the foods.
2. Avoid overeating or excess calorie consumption during these meals. Eat only enough to stave off that precompetition feeling of general weakness.
3. Eat only complex carbohydrates, and these should be of the lowest fiber content.
4. No protein or fat sources are allowed on this day, and this includes a time frame of 12 hours prior to the scheduled event.
This type of diet is not recommended for powerlifters. It works quite adequately for those in endurance sports but not for powerlifters. This diet would present a problem in any sport in which you are entering a certain weight division. For example, to lose 10 pounds you would have to begin five meals prior to the event; to lose 6-8 pounds, you would have to begin three meals prior; to lose 4 pounds, you would start two meals before; to lose 2 pounds you would begin the evening before. Obviously, when demands of this nature are required, effective carbohydrate-loading techniques are not always possible.
Dennis B. Weis is a Ketchikan, Alaska based power-bodybuilder. He is the co-author of 3 critically acclaimed books; Mass!, Raw Muscle and Anabolic Muscle Mass. He is also a frequent hard-hitting uncompromising freelance writer for many of the mainstream bodybuilding and fitness magazines published worldwide.
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