If you are a cross country runner or a participant in another endurance sport, you are probably familiar with carbohydrate-loading. This strategy heightens the glycogen levels in an athlete's muscles, providing added energy for extended performance. The approach involves an increased carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to a major event. Many athletes enjoy pasta parties prior to a competition in addition to periodic meals with potatoes, corn, bread, milk products, fruits, etc. The key is knowing when to increase your carb intake, how many and what types of carbs to consume, and how to save the built-up supply of glycogen in your muscles for the big day.

The 90 Minute Cutoff
The 90 Minute Cutoff
Use carbohydrate-loading only for competitive events that last 90 minutes or longer. Your regular diet should provide your muscles with enough glycogen for a shorter duration of strenuous activity. Your daily training does not need to be tapered unless you plan to participate in an endurance sport.
Small Meals
Small Meals
Eat small meals throughout the day. Your heaviest carb-based feast should be consumed during the early hours, especially if you're using the one-day method. Your last meal before the day of the sporting event should be moderately light to avoid discomfort the next morning.
Lots of Water
Lots of Water
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Your fluid consumption should begin during the preparation period and continue throughout any major athletic activity. Snacks may be necessary during the competition to keep your body fueled.
Weight Gain
Weight Gain
Expect to gain weight temporarily. Most of the extra pounds will be water weight since the body stores about three ounces of water with every ounce of glycogen. The weight will come off quickly as you use the stored-up energy to compete.
Vary Your Carb Sources
Vary Your Carb Sources
Eat fibrous foods in moderation. Although the glycogen levels in your muscles rise after you consume fiber-rich meals, your digestive system may suffer from diarrhea or other gastrointestinal complications. Your carbs should be obtained from a variety of sources.
Experiment
Experiment
Experiment with carbo-loading in advance. Find out which method works best for you several months before the important event so you'll know what to expect. Your performance can be hampered by unforeseen circumstances
Protein
Protein
Keep some protein in your diet. Carbohydrates should make up about 70% of your nutrition while carbo-loading, but protein is necessary in small amounts to provide a secondary energy source. It may also help break down the carbohydrates so the glycogen can work properly.
Listen To Your Body
Listen To Your Body
Let your body be your guide. Stop eating when you become full and take a break from training when you feel fatigued. Your body's natural mechanisms are the most reliable authority on matters of health and fitness.
Have Fun
Have Fun
Have fun. Don't let your motivation to perform overshadow your enjoyment of the sport. Remember that it's just a game.

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