A carbohydrate-loading diet, also called a carb-loading diet, is a strategy to increase the amount of fuel stored in your muscles to improve athletic performance. This is done by increasing the amount of carbohydrates within the body several days before an athletic event. This can be coupled with decreasing the amount of physical exercise you perform during these days as well. The general idea is to rest up while stacking as much energy as possible to use on the big day. This strategy is one adopted for many endurance events such as long-distance running or bicycle rides. There are some negative possible side effects to carb loading.
Loading up on carbohydrates will most likely cause weight gain. The increase in body fat stores over a few days of carb loading will be negligible in the long run; however, extra muscle glycogen and increased water holding within the muscles can lead to a body weight increase of several pounds during the loading phase. Body fat may also increase during this time, as a sudden extra caloric load will trigger the body to store non-needed calories.
A boost in your carbohydrate intake may mean your digestive tract gets deluged with hard-to-digest fiber. Fiber is not digested by the human system and is generally passed through the body. Fiber can cause flatulence, diarrhea and stomach rumblings as it makes its way through the gastrointestinal tract. A huge increase in fiber consumption can create a roadblock and discomfort in the carb loader.
Blood Sugar Changes
Loading up on carbohydrates can create a significant swing in blood sugar glucose. The sudden change from an athletic training diet of adequate levels of protein, carbohydrates and fats to mainly carbohydrates will increase the blood sugar content in the days proceeding competition. The result of higher blood sugar will trigger the body to produce insulin in an attempt to process the blood sugar and get it into the muscles for use as energy. This can cause mood swings, memory lapses and a general feeling of fuzziness in the brain.
For every gram of stored glycogen, the body’s muscles will store about 3 grams of water. This means that during the carb loading phase, the muscles can become stiff and full from the loading. They may feel slightly sore, and the athlete will feel a little clumsy. When so much potential energy is stored this quickly within the muscles of the body, this bulkiness comes with being primed for the big event.