Carbohydrates form a category of nutritional components that one finds in dairy products, fruits, legumes, vegetables, and food with starch. Each portion of the abovementioned types of food contains a different quantity of carbohydrates. After consuming the above foods, they are absorbed by the body in the form of glucose. Such a post-meal event leads to an increase of the glucose level in the blood, resulting in the secretion of a hormone, called insulin, which guides glucose from the blood and into the cells. Eventually, the glucose is stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. This glycogen, during a period of fasting, decomposes to provide the body with glucose, that is, energy. However, the repositories of the body in muscular and hepatic glycogen are quite restricted. In simple words, if the body used the carbohydrates exclusively to produce energy, then this quantity would suffice only for one hour of running; in contrast to fats, which, if used exclusively by the body, would suffice for one to walk from Athens to Paris!
This issue has challenged the specialists, since the exhaustion of the repositories of glycogen causes exhaustion to athletes. For this reason, a Swedish protocol for carbohydrate loading was established, which consisted of some stages (emptying of the glycogen with a low-carbohydrate diet and intensive exercise - relaxing, followed by a diet rich in carbohydrates for overloading). However, because the said protocol was quite toilsome it was abandoned, and nowadays it has been verified that the consumption of carbohydrates 2-3 days before the sport event maximizes the repositories of glycogen in the body, resulting in a prolongation of the time that it takes for the individual to be exhausted. At this point, it is worth mentioning that the carbohydrate loading takes place in sports with duration longer than an hour, such as soccer and the Marathon run.
The suggestion given by specialists for the loading is 8-10 grams per kilo of body weight. That is, for a person who weighs 70 kilos, 560-700 grams of carbohydrates are needed two or three days before the game. We shall describe indicatively how one can reach the above suggestion.
- 5 cups of spaghetti, 150 g. of carbohydrates
- 7 slices of bread, 105 g. of carbohydrates
- 3 cups of fruit juice, 90 g. of carbohydrates
- 4 fruits, 60 g. of carbohydrates
- 4 cups of boiled vegetables, 40 g. of carbohydrates
- 3 cups of cereal, 90 g. of carbohydrates
- 3 glasses of low fat milk, 24 g. of carbohydrates
- TOTAL: 569 g. of carbohydrates