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Carbohydrate Loading, Stacking And Pre-Workout Sugar Intake

Continuing on the note of carbohydrates, I feel there are three other basics that require demystifying – that of carbohydrate loading, carbohydrate stacking and pre-workout sugar intake.

I am sure you have heard sprinters talk of carb loading often and wondered what it is. To put it simply, carbohydrate loading is when an athlete spends carbohydrates and then force-feeds himself/herself over a period of several days. Carbohydrates are thus first depleted, say on a long-distance fast run and then large amounts of carbs are eaten. This is supported by the theory that a carb-low body will overcompensate and store extra glycogen.

Similarly, you may have come across the term ‘carbohydrate stacking’, especially in magazines like Runner’s World etc. Carb stacking holds specific significance for endurance athletes such as those running marathons, 10K, Bolder Boulder, 100K, clay court tennis players etc. It means that the athlete consumes several different kinds of carbohydrates, each of which will be assimilated by the body at different rates depending on their glycaemic index (GI) values. The higher GI value foods will fulfil their instant energy requirements and the low GI value foods will enable slow and controlled energy release.

The other question I am asked often is that if sugar-based drinks or foods pre-workout are beneficial to a workout routines and goal achievement. Sucrose (as in table sugar) is assimilated by the body and reaches our bloodstream very quickly – usually within a few minutes of consumption. You can see the spiked values and graph rise from a blood sample taken soon after sugar consumption.

In response, the pancreas release a large amount of insulin to break the sugars down. However, this insulin retards fat metabolization by the muscles. Now get the sequence of events that the body follows. The muscles start to rely more on glycogen stored in them, which is in limited supply (all of 20 minutes worth of moderate exercise). The released insulin reduces blood sugar levels, which is already being steadily reduced by muscle utilization of glycogen for energy production. This downward spiral continues when during an exercise the blood sugar levels drop sharply to cause fatigue quickly and may also induce dizziness. Dizziness as a symptom arising during workout could be misunderstood as one emanating from serious conditions, when the reality is not so. Thus, it is not recommended to reach for sugar-based energy drinks and foods pre-exercise, and it actually inhibits performance and endurance.

In the next post, I shall talk about protein-workout nexus. Till then, take care.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Robin Green February 11, 2009, 12:45 pm

    My goodness, that just does not sound good at all. I would not want to try this at all.