If you're involved in athletics, you've likely heard that it's beneficial to load up on good carbs before you compete in a game, race or other athletic event. This is a bit confusing for many people, however, as it's not necessarily clear exactly what benefit eating a large meal loaded with carbohydrates will do to help benefit you.
Studies have shown that eating a large meal of good carbs with a moderate protein source about 12 to 18 hours before a race or competitive sporting event can help to improve strength, endurance and other elements of your athleticism as well.
Good Carbs and Bad Carbs
It's important to recognize the difference between a carbohydrate that will help to benefit you and one that may cause you some difficulty with your goals of achieving a heightened endurance. Bad carbohydrates in this case are those that will be broken down quickly. These include sugars, primarily, and will give you a short burst of energy followed by a lull that can be very bad for anyone looking to achieve endurance.
Good carbs, on the other hand, include breads, pastas, rice and other complex carbohydrate sources.
Carbohydrate loading has long been a popular tool of marathon runners, distance athletes of other types, and anyone looking to approach an athletic event with the best endurance possible. The reason for why eating a heavy load of carbohydrates several hours before your event helps you is because of the way that your body processes these foods. Complex carbohydrates take longer than virtually any other type of food that you can eat to break down. As your body and digestive system breaks down these foods, they continue to provide added energy for your body. The longer that it takes to break food down, the longer the food will provide energy for you. Thus, eating carbohydrates is a good way of giving your body a long-term fuel that will continue to benefit you through a long race, game or other athletic activity.
Why Protein Helps
It's generally better to eat a big meal full of carbs the night before an event if you also include a protein source with that meal as well. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary one has to do with the way that your muscles are broken down and restored as you exercise. While exercising, your muscle tissues will actually be damaged and broken down slightly. In order to repair those damaged muscles more effectively and quickly, your body requires a load of protein to be able to do so. This helps to achieve a greater endurance and strength level as well; having only carbohydrates in your system means that you won't be able to fully restore your muscular strength throughout your game or activity.
For more information about carb loading and how to prepare for a big game, consult with a nutritionist or a doctor.