THE G.I. FACTOR: THE TRAINING DIET AND CARBOHYDRATE LOADING

It’s not just your pre-and post-event meals that influence your performance. Consuming a high carbohydrate diet every day will help you reach peak performance. The G.I. factor of the carbohydrate is not important here, only the amount of carbohydrate. It has been proven scientifically, unlike many other rumours involving dietary supplements, that eating lots of high carbohydrate foods will maximise muscle glycogen stores and thereby increase endurance.

The reason for this is that carbohydrate stores need to be replenished after each training session, not just after a race. If you train on a number of days per week, make sure you consume a high carbohydrate diet throughout the whole week.

Remember that alcohol interferes with glycogen re-synthesis and lowers blood glucose levels, sometimes to dangerous levels. Keep alcohol intake moderate—no more than one to three standard drinks per day and try to have two alcohol-free days a week. A standard drink is equivalent to one glass of wine (120 ml), one middy of beer (285 ml) or one nip of spirits (30 ml).

Beer is not a good source of carbohydrate. When athletes fail to consume adequate carbohydrate each day, muscle and liver glycogen stores may eventually became depleted. Dr Ted Costill at the University of Texas showed that the gradual and chronic depletion of stored glycogen may decrease endurance and exercise performance. Intense work-outs often two to three times a day, draw heavily on the athlete’s muscle glycogen stores. Athletes on a low carbohydrate diet will not perform their best because muscle stores of fuel are low.

If the diet provides inadequate amounts of carbohydrate, the reduction in muscle glycogen will be critical. A heavily training athlete should consume about 500 to 800 grams of carbohydrate a day (about two to three times normal) to help prevent carbohydrate depletion. In practice, few Australian athletes achieve this enormous figure. As a comparison, a typical Australian man or woman eats only 240 grams of carbohydrate each day.

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