ARTICLE: Mythbusting 2 - Carb Loading

Writing my article on healthy foods the other day and dispelling the myth about eggs, made me realise how many myths that are propagated out there about what we eat and how.

One of the greatest mistakes made by athletes today is the excessive carbohydrate loading.

The 30-60 Minute Window
After exercise your body is in its optimal state of repair. This is the period where most bodybuilders know that have to start heavy eating of protein so the muscles can start their repair work.

What fewer know is that carbohydrates work from the same principle. When we run our glycogen (glucose in its stored form) stores run low and need to be replenished. Most athletes take this as an invitation to load up carbohydrates for days before and after exercise, filling themselves with pasta, rice, and other carb heavy foods.


You can't blame them, as the technique is ancient, and used to be common-place all over the athletic world. Only recently has it become known that this is not necessary, and, in fact, detrimental to your overall health.


The first hour after exercise, your muscles are ready to restock their supplies of glycogen, and if you take in high-quality carbohydrates within this "window", your stores will be well replenished. From then on maintaining a healthy level. The level varies with the phase of exercise you are in, I recommend consulting "The Paleo-Diet for Athletes" for the numbers, but a rule of thumb is this: Have a higher intake just before and just after exercise, and a lower level on days when you are working at less intensity.

A too high carbohydrate intake will cause you to take in too many calories on most days, increasing body fat levels, and decreasing performance. This problem is compounded by the fact that most carbohydrates today come from refined sugars and mineral "empty" foods such as pasta, white rice, and white bread. Avoid these, and switch to vegetables and fruits for your main source of carbobydrates, as these will fill you quicker and provide a much better mineral intake, at less calories (your get more for less in a way).

I love pasta and rice myself, and as an athlete you can eat more of that and get away with it than others. I do recommend going solely for the brown pasta types (spelt, whole wheat etc.) as well as brown and wild rice, and brown breads (not soda). These foods should be a supplement of your diet, however, not the core.

Sadly leaving them out completely in favour of vegetables would always be the best option, as grain, milk/dairy, legumes (most beans), and processed meats all come rock-bottom on any list comparing it to fresh fruit, lean meat, vegetables, and seafood (legumes even contain the so-called anti-nutrients that actually hamper mineral absorption from other food sources).

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