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Pasta

You can eat pasta with just about anything, so it's a versatile food to have on hand when you're carb-loading.
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Potatoes

Potatoes are filling, and they have a high glycemic index, which means they'll help replenish your glycogen stores quickly.
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Rice

Popular options for rice include white rice, brown rice, and Basmati rice.
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Dave's Killer Bread

Bread

Bread has a high glycemic index, which means it'll help replenish your glycogen stores quickly.
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Beans

Beans are high in fiber and protein, and they have a low glycemic index.
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The 11 Best Food For Carb Loading

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When you have to face an endurance event like a marathon, experts recommend to practice carb loading. It is the process of consuming more carbohydrates in the days leading up to an event. The goal is to ensure maximum glycogen stores in your muscles so that you will have enough energy to sustain a long, strenuous activity.

There are different ways to carb load. Some people choose to do it by increasing carbohydrate intake in their regular diet. Others may do it by eating a higher-carbohydrate diet for several days before the event and then taper off to a lower-carbohydrate diet a few days before the event. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to carbohydrate loading. It depends on your individual eating habits, preferences, and the type of event you are training for.

Whatever approach fits you, you should know what are the best foods to eat when carb loading.

Best Food For Carb Loading Table

Why Is Carb Loading Important For Runners?

If you’re an endurance athlete, then you know that carb loading is important for runners. Athletes can store more muscle glycogen if fed a carbohydrate-rich diet. [1] Effectiveness of carbohydrate feeding in delaying fatigue during prolonged exercise found that increased glycogen content can postpone fatigue for 15 to 30 minutes during endurance events. [2]

So why is carb loading so important for runners? Your muscles use glycogen for energy when you exercise. If you don’t have enough glycogen stored in your muscles, you’ll start to feel tired and weak. And if you don’t have any glycogen stored at all, you might even experience muscle cramps and fatigue.

That’s why it’s important to carb load before a race. Eating carbs will help increase your glycogen stores, which will help keep you feeling energetic throughout the race.

Of course, you don’t want to overdo it with the carbs. Carbohydrate intake and obesity excess carb load can lead to excess body weight, and it might also cause gastrointestinal problems like bloating, fatigue, and poor digestion. [3] Therefore, the recommended carb intake before the race day is 9-11 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. If you’re moderately active, aim for a moderate carb diet of about 7-9 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. Sedentary people should not opt for a high carb diet. [4]

Best Foods To Eat When Carb Loading

There are many different kinds of carbs you can eat when carb loading. Some people prefer to eat simple carbs like candy and cookies, while others prefer complex carbs like rice and potatoes. Complex carbohydrates are generally the better choice because they are slowly metabolized, providing you with a steady stream of energy. Simple carbs, on the other hand, are easily metabolized and can give you a quick burst of energy followed by a crash.

Pasta (Overall Best High Card Food)

pasta

Pro

  • It’s a complex carb

  • It’ a versatile food

  • Rich in fiber

  • Delicious

Con

  • Contains gluten

  • Not recommend for those with a gluten intolerance

Rating: 5/5

Pasta is one of the most popular carb-loading foods because it’s easy to make and it tastes great. Plus, it’s a fiber rich complex carb, which means it’ll give you a slow and steady stream of energy. [5] You can eat pasta with just about anything, so it’s a versatile food to have on hand when you’re carb-loading.

There are varieties of pasta you can choose from, so you’re sure to find one that you like. Some popular options include spaghetti, macaroni, and fettuccine. One delicious and simple recipe I am fond of is Pasta with nut butter.

Potatoes (Best Value)

potatoes

Pro

  • Easy to prepare

  • High glycemic index

  • It’s a complex carb

Con

  • High GI may not good for diabetic patients

Rating: 4.5/5

Potatoes are another complex carb that’s great for carb loading. They’re filling, and they have a high glycemic index, which means they’ll help replenish your glycogen stores quickly.[6] A 100g of Potato contains 15.7 grams of carbs. [7]

There are various ways to cook potatoes, so you can easily find a recipe that you like. Some popular options include baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and roasted potatoes.

Rice (Most Popular Choice of Asian Athletes)

rice

Pro

  • Easy to prepare

  • High glycemic index

  • Various option to choose from

  • Can combine with any meal

Con

  • High GI may not good for diabetic patients

  • Takes more time to prepare

Rating: 4/5

Rice is a versatile carb that can be eaten with almost any meal. Because rice belongs to whole grains, it has a high glycemic indexes. [8] So, it is ideal for quickly replenishing glycogen stores. For example, cooked white rice has a GI score of 70+. But, you should know that parboiled (converted) rice has a low GI score of 55-.

There are various types of rice to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that you like. Some popular options include white rice, brown rice, and Basmati rice.

Bread (Most Popular Choice)

bread

Pro

  • Easy to find

  • Inexpensive

  • It’s a complex carb

  • High glycemic index

Con

  • High GI may not good for diabetic patients

Rating: 3.5/5

Bread is a great complex carb for carb loading. It’s easy to find, it’s inexpensive, it has a high glycemic index, which means it’ll help replenish your glycogen stores quickly. [9]

Beans (High Fiber Foods)

beans

Pro

  • It’s a complex carb

  • High in fiber and protein

  • Low glycemic index

  • Easy to prepare

Con

  • Takes more time to prepare

  • May increase abdominal pain, bloating and distension in IBS patients

Rating: 3/5

Beans are an excellent complex carb for carb loading. Beans are high in fiber and protein, and they have a low glycemic index, which means they’ll give you a slow and steady stream of energy. However, you should not consume beans if you are prone to gastrointestinal issues like bloating, gas, or diarrhea. [10]

There are many different types of beans to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that you like. Some popular options include black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans.

Sweet Potatoes (Organic Mid-Run Snack)

sweet potatoes

Pro

  • It’s a complex carb

  • High in fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals

  • Suitable as a mid run snack

Con

  • May not good for Kidney patients, Hearth patients and diabetic patients

Rating:4.5/5

Sweet potatoes are a great complex carb for carb loading. They’re high in fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, which are essential for endurance athletes.[11] [12] For runners seeking a more natural option than energy gels, they can consider these as a mid-run snack.

Fruits (Organic Simple Carb Choice)

fruits

Pro

  • Easy to digest options (Since it’s a simple carb)

  • Can eat on the go

  • Tasty

  • Can give a quick burst of energy

Con

  • High in sugar, hence not suitable for diabetic patients

  • Can cause gastrointestinal problems like bloating, gas, and diarrhea

Rating:4/5

Fruits are an excellent source of simple carbs.[13] They’re easy to eat on the go, and they can give you a quick burst of energy when you need it. However you should not consume too many fruits because they’re high in sugar and can cause gastrointestinal problems like bloating, gas, and diarrhea. [14]

There are many different types of fruits to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that you like. Some popular options include bananas, apples, oranges, pomegranates, and grapes.

Energy Bars (Eat On The Go)

energy bars

Pro

  • Easy to find

  • Easy to eat on the go

  • Tasty

  • Can give you energy during a workout

Con

  • May have high sugar content

  • May high in calories

Rating:3.5/5

Energy bars are a great complex carb for carb loading. They’re easy to grab and go, and they can give you the energy you need to power through your workout. [15] However, be cautious when selecting an energy bar because some of them are high in sugar and calories.

Sports Drinks (Perfect for Quick Energy)

Sports Drinks

Pro

  • Easy to find

  • Tasty

  • Easy to drink on the go

  • Can give you energy during a workout

Con

  • May have high sugar content

  • May high in calories

  • High caffeine content

Rating: 3/5

Sports drink is a great way to restock electrolytes and carb load. Most sports drinks contain simple carbs, which can give you a quick burst of energy. [16] However, be cautious of sports drinks that are high in sugar and calories.

Fruit Juices and Smoothies (Simple Carb Drinks)

Fruit Juices

Pro

  • Easy to find

  • Easy to make

  • Easy to drink

  • Tasty

  • Can give you energy during a workout

Con

  • May have high sugar content

  • May high in calories

Rating: 3/5

Fruit juices and smoothies are excellent sources of simple carbohydrates. They’re easy to make, and they can give you the energy you need to power through your workout. However, when selecting a fruit juice or smoothie, you should be cautious because some of them can be high in sugar and calories.

Some popular choices of fruit juice and smoothies include orange juice, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, chocolate milk, and banana smoothies.

Oatmeal (Fiber Rich Complex Carb)

Oatmeal

Pro

  • It’s a complex carb

  • Low glycemic index

  • Easy to prepare

  • Easy to eat

Con

  • High fiber content may cause gas and bloating

Rating: 4.5/5

Oatmeal is a great complex carb for carb loading. It’s high in fiber and protein, it has a low glycemic index, which means it’ll give you a slow and steady stream of energy. [17]

You can prepare oatmeal in many different ways, so you’re sure to find one that you like. Some popular options include plain oatmeal, oatmeal with fruit, and oatmeal with nuts and seeds.

Water (Must Have for Rehydration)

Water

Pro

  • Calorie-free

  • Easy to find

  • Necessary for hydration

Con

  • It doesn’t provide any energy

  • Need to combine with above mentioned food options

Rating: 5/5

Last but not least, water is an essential part of carb loading. When you’re exercising, your body will lose water through sweat. So it’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and prevent dehydration.[18]

Dehydration can lead to cramps, fatigue, and even heatstroke. So make sure you drink plenty of water during your carb loading period.

Conclusion – What Food Is Best For Carb Loading?

The best food for carb loading is typically a high-carb, low-fat food. Some examples of good foods to eat during carb loading include pasta, rice, bread, cereal, and fruit. You should avoid high-fiber, fatty, sugary, and alcohol during carb loading. Stick to familiar foods to avoid unnecessary allergic reactions or gastrointestinal problems. And finally, make sure you’re getting enough fluids to stay hydrated. Thanks for reading!

FAQ

What Should Be Avoided While Carbo Loading?

When carbo loading, you should avoid fatty foods and sugary foods. These foods will slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, and you want the carbohydrates to be quickly absorbed into your system so that you can fuel your workouts. Additionally, alcohol should be avoided as it can interfere with carbohydrate absorption and impair athletic performance. Lastly, it is best to avoid new or unfamiliar foods as they may not agree with your digestive system and could cause problems during this important time period.

How Do You Carb-Load The Day Before?

Start carb loading 3-4 days before your event. Increase your carb intake gradually to give your body time to adjust. Eat smaller meals more often to prevent gastrointestinal problems.

Is Pasta Good For Carb-Loading?

Yes, pasta is good food for carb loading. It’s a high-carb, low-fat food that will help you load up on carbs without putting on too much fat. However, adding fatty sauces or toppings to your pasta can make it less healthy.

References

  1. Pubmed: Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes
  2. Pubmed: Effectiveness of carbohydrate feeding in delaying fatigue during prolonged exercise
  3. Pubmed: Carbohydrate intake and obesity
  4. PubMed Journal: Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  5. MedlinePlus: Carbohydrates
  6. MedlinePlus: Glycemic index and diabetes
  7. Food Data Central: Potatoes, white, flesh and skin, raw
  8. MedlinePlus: Glycemic index and diabetes
  9. MedlinePlus: Glycemic index and diabetes
  10. Pubmed: Diet in irritable bowel syndrome
  11. PubMed: Nutrition and Supplement Update for the Endurance Athlete
  12. MedlinePlus: Carbohydrates
  13. NIH: Is Fructose Malabsorption a Cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
  14. Pubmed: Energy Drinks and Sports Performance, Cardiovascular Risk, and Genetic Associations
  15. Johns Hopkins Medicine: Dehydration and Heat Stroke

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