I am going to write about the difference between carbo-loading (CL) and glycogen supercompensation (GS) and why perhaps, GS is a superior approach to packing more fuel into your body for the benefit of your run/race.
For endurance athletes, the act of consuming a large plate of pasta the night before an endurance event (marathon, triathlon…) is pretty common place. I’ve been doing it since I was in my early 20s and mostly because every big run had a social/carbo-loading dinner set up the night before. In fact, the Boston Marathon (1997) provided all you could drink beer! How cool is that? We were CARBO-LOADING. We were loading up with carbs because they are our primary source of fuel when engaging in steady-state endurance events where our effort is aerobic in nature.
CL is easy – stuff your face with carbs (pastas seemed to be the carb of choice back then) of various levels on the glycemic index, get sleep, pee/poop – go race/run/bike/swim. What one needed to learn was which foods agreed with their GI and which foods did not and that is a whole different subject.
Glycogen supercompensation is superior in that it seeks to not just replace muscle glycogen to normal levels. The benefit of GS over CL is its ability to replace glycogen at levels greater than normal. In other words, you become like a car retrofitted with an external fuel tank which allows you to travel further before experiencing the fatigue that depleted glycogen levels will absolutely cause you to experience.
Here is what we know as fact based on research – the ability to sustain prolonged exercise depends on muscle glycogen concentration.
So, let me spare you the WHY (because you can look that up within Google Scholar or go to Graduate School if you really want to get into the weeds) and just tell you HOW.
GS process is based on a 6-9 day cycle that involves both diet and exercise prior to your endurance event.
The easiest way to explain the cycle is to provide a simple chart along with a few caveats to further explain some details.
Glycogen depletion requires vigorous exercise (which most endurance athletes do not want to do in their final week for the sake of recovery). Fortunately, glycogen levels tend to stay elevated for ~ 3 days following a GS cycle. As the chart shows, you will enjoy 6 days of recovery and still benefit from enhanced glycogen storage.
Things to remember: principal of specificity is in effect here. Vigorous exercise needs to use the same muscles you intend to deplete which are the same muscles you’ll largely rely upon during your event e.g., runners deplete by running, cyclers deplete by cycling, etc.
Also, according to research, Day 1 of the High CHO (carbohydrate) should consist of simple sugars ingested every 3 hours for steady glycogen synthesis – pack it in with small doses and don’t gain weight by allowing any of it to be stored as FAT.
Lastly, if at all possible, run some trial attempts at GS in order to determine exactly how YOU respond and tweak as necessary. Everyone is at least slightly different!
|1||High protein/low CHO||Vigorous|
|2||High protein/low CHO||Vigorous|
|3||High protein/low CHO||Vigorous|
|4||High CHO (600 g)||None|
|5||High CHO (600 g)||None|
|6||High CHO (600 g)||None|