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Carbohydrate loading is a dietary means that has been used to improve performance in endurance athletes. The theory behind carbohydrate loading is to maximize the stored amount of carbohydrates in our body, as glycogen, to yield more energy. This is done in two steps. The first step is to adjust carbohydrate intake for a week to between 50-55% of total daily calories. Fat and protein are increased to make up for any differences in caloric intake. Training remains the same. This allows the athlete to dump the stored glycogen he or she already has and make room for the second step. The second step takes place about 3-4 days from the event. This step calls for increasing carbohydrate intake to about 70% of daily calories. Foods that contain higher amounts of fat are decreased and training is decreased as well. Is this truly the safest?


· Carbohydrate loading does increase pre-exercise muscle glycogen content as well as power output and total distance covered in one hour which shows that having maximized glycogen stores can increase performance.

· Habitually eating a high fat diet then carbohydrate loading also increases athletic performance with better post event recovery.

· Carbohydrates in large amounts (bread, pasta, etc.) hinder the health of the athlete for a number of reasons:

1) Many grains contain a protein composite called gluten. Gluten is partially made up of storage proteins called prolamins.

2) Gluten and these prolamins can cross the intestinal barrier and also cause an inflammation response.

3) The prolamins and gluten entering the blood stream can also lead to auto-immune disease in susceptible people.

4) Another associated component of carbohydrates is a composite protein called zonulin which helps regulate intestinal permeability. Eating foods high in prolamins and gluten will increase the amount of zonulin in our intestines. This creates extra spaces for undigested proteins to pass through. Our bodies will treat these undigested proteins as dangerous and launch an immune response. The antibodies that are created can then attack other systems in our bodies. This can lead to disease as well as inflammation in areas such as the athlete's joints. Training for endurance sports already causes inflammation and the diet needs to counteract that.

· Another problem with eating grains is the increased amounts of phytic acid. Phytates are substances that bond to the metals; iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium in our bodies.

5) This does not allow for the minerals to be absorbed and used properly.

6) Iron is especially important in endurance athletes because it supplies the protein hemoglobin in red blood cells which are responsible for carrying oxygen to the working tissues. According to the USDA, endurance athletes are more prone to iron deficiency. Diet should not further that deficiency, but supply the body with correct nutrients to avoid a deficiency.

7) Zinc is responsible for cellular respiration, DNA reproduction, maintaining cell membranes, and clearing out free radicals. Increased amounts of carbohydrates as well as decreased amounts of fats and proteins lead to deficiencies in the mineral. The deficiencies in athletes can lead to decreased bodyweight, fatigue, and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

8) Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and iron are also important in bone formation. Athletes are at an increased risk for stress fractures. This is especially true for endurance athletes that log a lot of miles per week in training. Maximizing absorption of all these minerals is important to keeping the athlete healthy.

· A common side effect for ingesting an increased amount of carbohydrates is gastrointestinal distress. This can severely hinder performance in athletes. The body does not breakdown some carbohydrates because of the lack of certain enzymes; this undigested food passes through the intestines gasses such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane are produced. This can cause gas and bloating in the athlete, which also can affect performance.


· Ingesting high glycemic carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes 30 minutes post exercise to help the athlete replenish lost glycogen. The rule of thumb is taking in .75g of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight. Fresh fruit wil also work but the sweet potatoes has a healthier effect on insulin levels.

· For endurance athletes that took part in more demanding exercise this should be repeated about 90 minutes to two hours following the workout due to the continued burning of muscle glycogen during recovery.

· The athlete also needs to rehydrate and consume protein in a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.

· To increase nutrient and mineral absorption the rest of the day the athlete should stick to lean meats, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. great for this.

· To increase fats more in the diet olive oil can be used in salad dressings or sprinkled on vegetables. Foods can also be cooked in coconut oil to reap the health benefits of the medium chain fatty acids.