Importance of Carbohydrate

Maintaining Glycogen stores throughout the Training week you will help maintain a Consistent performance in training ensuring the body has Sufficient energy for optimal performance, whilst helping in the Prevention of fatigue and Stress to immune system

Why Carbohydrate?

  • Only fuel source suitable for high intensity training
  • Very low carbohydrate intakes in females can affect menstrual cycle
  • Insufficient carbohydrate has been related to depressed immune system
  • Insufficient carbohydrates can disrupt sleep patterns
  • Insufficient carbohydrate can contribute to poor recovery and Over Training Syndrome (OTS)
  • In endurance running a periodised approach is best practise –that does not mean going Low Carb High Fat (LCHF)

What is a portion?

Keeping a track of food intake and kcal’s is tricky and one of the biggest issues encountered by people is what is a portion? A single portion of food is usually not known so people usually eat much more than a protion and with fruit and veg sometime not enough.

Below is a simple set of examples of what constitutes 1 portion of each food group.

Fruit and vegetables:

ONE portion = 80g = any of the following

1 apple, banana, pear, orange or other similar sized fruit

2 plums or similar sized fruit

½ a grapefruit or avocado

1 slice of large fruit, such as melon or pineapple

3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables (raw, cooked, frozen or tinned)

3 heaped tablespoons of beans and pulses (however much you eat, beans and pulses count as a maximum of 1 portion a day)

3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad (fresh or tinned in fruit juice) or stewed fruit

1 heaped tablespoon of dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots)

1 handful of grapes, cherries or berries

a dessert bowl of salad

a glass (150ml) of fruit juice (however much you drink, fruit juice counts as a maximum of 1 portion a day)

Remember for your 5 a day you must have 5 different foods from the above.

Bread, cereal, rice and pasta and potatoes:

1 slice bread

1 egg sized potato

3 tbsp breakfast cereal (normally 45g dry)

2 heaped tablespoons of cooked pasta and rice (approx. 75g uncooked)

Milk and dairy:

200 ml of milk

150g low fat yoghurt

125g cottage cheese

30g hard cheese

Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy source of protein:

85g-100g cooked meat or fish

3-4 tablespoons of dried beans

2 eggs

3 tablespoons of nuts or seeds

Food lables

Always check food lables for the recommened food portion size, this will usuall be shown.  but remember to check the lables clearly that you are reading the protion size and not kcal and other nutrition ingormation for a 100g protion.


Carbohydrate Loading

Carbohydrate loading is not a new technique and is the norm in discussions with regards to the final weeks \ days in build-up to events of marathon distance and greater. It’s the act of consuming larger amounts of carbohydrates to increase glycogen storage in your body to provide extra energy during a physically demanding exercise, such as a marathon.

It is reported that a trained endurance athlete will have 20 to 50 % more muscle glycogen than untrained people, therefore they are more effective at carbohydrate loading prior to a key race than a less well-trained person. This will have knock on effects to race day fueling and the body’s ability to store carbs and the benefits you will see following carb loading.

Research suggest a high-carbohydrate diet over will see greater performance gains either a more balanced ‘Normal’ diet containing a mix of fat, protein and carbohydrate with an expected result of almost double the endurance capacity. This is also the common thinking over a ‘low-carbohydrate diet’ high fat / protein diet, where it is expected you will see a reduction in exercise performance over athletes on a high-carbohydrate diet. But this is very dependent on your normal training and diet plans.

So there are a number of ways to achieve ‘carb loading’, below are some common techniques;

Carb- depletion > Carb loading technique

Usually completed over a two week taper, with week two seeing a reduction in total mileage but keeping the higher training effort thus depleting the stores during a 3 day Carb- depletion diet. Then switching to a high-carbohydrate diet ‘Carb-loading’ phase with at least 70 % of energy intake in the form of carbohydrate over the reaming 3 / 4 days to load the muscle glycogen stores.

However reports and studies add doubt to the benefit and the science of a Carb-depletion phase.

Check out the post for more information on Carb-depletion.

London Marathon 2016

For an example of what carb loading would look like for my London Marathon 2016, Nutrition intake form Thursday > Saturday includes an increase of intake with cabohydrate focus, with high carb meals and foods plus smaller carb based snacks throughout the day.

With my start of carb-depletion weight 67kg, I would look to load 10g carbs per 1kg body weight. (10g x 67kg = 670g per day).  This will see an increase in kcals for the loading phase approximatly 2,680kcals base per day pre excercise.

London 2016 base plan (670g per day):
Thursday Friday Saturday
Breakfast Dorset – Simply Fruity Muesli with Alpro – Coconut Original topped with Chia charge. Honey trail mix and Banana Dorset – Simply Fruity Muesli with Alpro – Coconut Original. Dorset – Simply Fruity Muesli with Alpro – Coconut Original
Snacks (1) Soreen – Malt Fruit Loaf

Beet It Sport – Pro-elite Bar

M&S – Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie

Beet It Sport – Pro-elite Bar

New York Bakery Co. – Cinnamon & Raisin Bagels with Strawberry Conserve

Torq – Recovery Bar

Soreen – Malt Fruit Loaf

New York Bakery Co. – Cinnamon & Raisin Bagels with Strawberry Conserve

Lunch New York Bakery Co. – Cinnamon & Raisin Bagels with Strawberry Conserve

Torq – Recovery Bar

Gnocchi, Green Lentils with tomatoe sauce. Neds Noodle Bar

Udon noodles, squid with Yakisoba sauce + Lick banana & honey frozen yoghurt

Dinner Gnocchi, Salami, flat mushroom, and sweet potatoe with tomatoe sauce.

Vine leaves stuffed with Rice (3)

Organic Wholewheat Farfalle pasta, Salami with Creme Faiche.

Vine leaves stuffed with Rice (3)


Spaghetti Bolognese

Snacks (2) Rice pudding with 4 squares dark chocolate

Strawberry Conserve on toast

Rice pudding with 4 squares dark chocolate

Soreen – Malt Fruit Loaf

Medjool Dates

Nutella Oat Cookie

Beet It Sport – Pro-elite Bar

Ambrosia – Rice Pudding Pot

Drinks Beet It – Sport Shot

for Goodness Shakes! – Superberry Sports Drink

Banana \ espresso smoothie with SIS Rego recover powder (Vanilla)

Costa skinny Mocha Latte with hazelnut syrup

Beet It – Sport Shot

Banana Smoothie with for Goodness Shakes! – Superberry Sports Drink

Beet It – Sport Shot

for Goodness Shakes! – Chocmalt Sports Drink


Normal ‘Carbohydrate Loading’

The term ‘Normal Carbohydrate Loading’ is the most common undertaken with endurance athletes.  This phase is to be completed combine with a gradual taper over the last 2 \ 3 weeks before your event, with a dietary focus at the end of the ‘Carb-loading’ phase – 5 days before the race.

It is suggested the recommend intake is 8-10g od carbohydrate per kg body weight per day.

A couple of useful tips;

  1. Stick with foods that you are familiar, there is no need to try anything new in the final days build up. This can be tricky if staying away or traveling abroad.
  2. Try to stick with Wholegrain foods
  3. Eat regulary but not so your eith hungry or bloated
  4. Don’t over eat kcals, high-carb is not high calorie intake

Suggested diet – 3 days pre Event

It’s important to have a good balanced meal plan, lean meats and high carbohydrate foods, sticking to wholegrain foods is important. REMEMBER we are not talking about loading with extra food this is a high carbohydrate diet not a high kcal intake diet.

Complex carbohydrates are the most beneficial for your body and include such foods as potatoes, yams, beans, peas, wheat bread, bananas, macaroni, spaghetti, cereal, raisins, apples, bagels, syrup, brown rice, corn, apples, carrots, and root vegetables. Mix a variety of carbs into your diet to create a nice balance.

The following is just a suggested Normal ‘Carbohydrate Loading’ style meal plan with the ‘A Race’ on a Sunday, snacks would need to be added to to raise the grams in line with body weight calculations;

Suggested Food Diary by days (main meals):
Thursday Friday Saturday
Breakfast Polenta porridge with cinnamon and honey also try with banana Weetabix with semi-skimmed milk topped with blueberries and banana. Wholegrain porridge oats with banana and blackberries and cinnamon
Lunch Gnocchi with roasted sweet potato, spinach, avocado and poached egg. Red Quinoa Salad (chickpeas, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, turkey or chicken)

– (Lunch box meal ideal for traveling)

Soba Noodles, Chicken and fresh vegetables
Dinner Red Quinoa, Aduki Beans, sweet pointed peppers served with Pork tenderloin Wholemeal spaghetti with king prawns, red peppers, courgette, red chilli, spinach and chopped tomatoes. Spaghetti Bolognese or carbonara

It’s good to eat smaller portions with snacks, try adding things like Bagels with peanut butter, malt loaf, muesli (or other cereal), nuts, seeds and dried fruit are also other great snacks.  A late bowl of whole meal porridge oats always works and you can never beat rice pudding.

The day before your event we would suggest eating earlier in the day, so decent breakfast, mid morning snack and having your main meal for lunch.  Then dinner can be a lighter meal as you will probably be eating earlier and heading to bed. If your still hungry before bed a rice pudding pot is a winner or any cereal \ energy bar.

Just make sure you’re not hungry or on the other hand bloated, both are not a nice feeling in build up to you race.

Race day Tips

  1. Take your normal race day breakfast with you, this is common with endurance athletes not wanting to leave anything to chance.
  2. for an extra carb boost with breakfast try adding ‘Seed Shots’ or ‘Chia Charge Trail Mix’ with on your breakfast or as a side.
  3. Leave a minimum 2 hours between breakfast and race start. (take a snack if race is slightly later i.e. energy bar or banana)
  4. Don’t do anythng you have not tried or tested before

Carbohydrate intake during an Event

While consuming carbohydrate in the form of drinks, bars, chews and gels during long training runs and events aids your stores and is beneficial to sustaining performance, the requirement is greater for the non-well trained running due to the capacity of the muscles to store glycogen. Make sure you have a tried and tested race day nutrition plan.  For help try XMiles race day nutrition help service.

And finally…

Your body also stores around 3g of water for every gram of glycogen so during the carb-loading phase it’s not uncommon to gain extra weight (around 1-2kg). But don’t worry – this extra weight is primarily made up of the carbohydrate you’ll need to power you through your race, so you should use it all up on race day!


Carb Depletion – Low (No) Carb Diet

A topic discussed within many endurance sports circles and raises many questions is the concept of ‘Carb Depletion’ or ‘low carb diet’ pre ‘Carb Loading’ for a key race.

This post covers the concept of ‘Carb Depletion’ and how as an Endurance based athlete I have used the technique placebo or not! in my build up to previous key marathons,  and as I prepare for my debut England vest running the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k.

The technique of ‘Carb Depletion’ as part of pre-race build up was originally developed in the late 1960’s and typically involved a 3-4 day ‘depletion phase’ involving 3-4 days of hard training plus a low carbohydrate diet followed by an increase in carbohydrate intake in the final couple of days. The initial phase was (is) very unpleasant (some would say brutal) and not always proven to help performance as it was damaging psychologically however some go with it and use it as a motivator or key step in the final stages of preparation and taper using it as a psychological plus.

A benefit I find from using this technique before starting a carb loading period is the assistance it gives to staying at target race weight during the taper phase, it can be difficult as the training load reduces in the final weeks of taper not to keep eating the same energy intake whist the energy expenditure reduces. However using the carb-depletion you will see some weight loss during the three day depletion phase, and the final run on day three will feel tough as your energy levels hit the lowest BUT that will then be rebalanced when loading begins.

Remembering the role of carbohydrates is to provide a steady and readily available supply of energy for the brain and the central nervous system. Carbohydrates can either be used immediately or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, a starch that maintains blood sugar levels. So it should be noted that when aerobic exercise is performed during the depletion phase you will use these carbohydrate stores before some using some of your body fat as fuel, but you will also lose some fat free mass, which is not desirable. A reason why the carb depletion phase is not performed for an extended period of time and only recommended in build up to a carb loading phase.

Organising my carb depletion meals

My standard routine is set as a 3 day carb depletion phase, using Sundays last longer run and the Sunday night’s meal a week out from a Sunday race as my last carbohydrate intake, then I start carb loading after my Thursday morning run.

Anglo Celtic Plate 100k – March 2016

For the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k I have prepared the following food plan;

Food Diary by days:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Breakfast Salmon, Spinach, Chedder Cheese, 2 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking) Smoked Haddock, Spinach, 2 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking) Salmon, Spinach, Chedder Cheese, 2 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking)
Lunch Green Salad (Iceberg lettuce , Cuecumber) with pre-cooked Roast Chicken, King Prawns, Avacardo and fatty dip (Pecorino and Basil Dip) Green Salad (Romaine Hearts, Cuecumber) with griddled Turkey Steak, Parma Ham and fatty dip (Pecorino and Basil Dip) Green Salad (Romaine Hearts, Cuecumber) with pre-cooked Roast Chicken, Cray Fish, Avacardo and fatty dip (Pecorino and Basil Dip)
Dinner Griddled Turkey Steak, broccoli, cauliflower, chedder cheese topped with Parma Ham Lamb Rump Steak, Griddled Mushrooms, Aubergine, green beans and courgett with a fried egg. Rump Steak with Mushrooms, King Prawns, Pine nuts and Asparagus with a fried egg. + small green side salad.

Training Summary 10 miles steady 5 mile tempo 5 mile tempo
Drinks Coffee, Green \ Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water, Pepsi Max, High5 Zero + Beet-IT Sports Shot Coffee, Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water, Pepsi Max, High5 Zero + Beet-IT Sports Shot Coffee, Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water, Pepsi Max, Nuun Tri-berry + Beet-IT Sports Shot

Looking for alternative food staples for a card depletion meals, Try our ‘Meal Planner’ Ideas using some of the alternatives below;

London Marathon – April 2016

For the London Marathon 2016 I have prepared the following food plan, the change was removing more vegtables from the diet and aprroaching with a no carb approach over low carb, this means between 5g – 12g carbohydares per day;

Food Diary by days:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Breakfast Salmon, Chedder Cheese, 3 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking) Salmon, Extra Mature Gouda Cheese, 3 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking) Salmon, Extra Mature Gouda Cheese, 3 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking)
Lunch Iceberg lettuce with pre-cooked Roast Chicken breast, Cray Fish & Stilton Iceberg lettuce with pre-cooked Turkey steak, Italian meats & Extra Mature Gouda, Stilton & Camembert Iceberg lettuce with pre-cooked Roast Chicken breast, Bresaola , Cray Fish & Camembert
Dinner Griddled Turkey Steak (2), Italian meats and Extra Mature Gouda Pork Lions (2) Griddled, Bresaola with a poached eggs (2) and melted Camembert Rump Steak with Extra Stilton stuffed Large Mushroom, King Prawns with a fried eggs (2).
Dessert Hartleys – 10 Calorie Jelly – Cranberry and Raspberry Sugarfree Jelly – 175g pot with Waitrose – Jersey Double Cream, 30 ml Hartleys – 10 Calorie Jelly – Blueberry & Blackcurrant Sugarfree Jelly – 175g pot with Waitrose – Jersey Double Cream, 30 ml Hartleys – 10 Calorie Jelly – Mango and Passionfruit Sugarfree Jelly – 175g pot with Waitrose – Jersey Double Cream, 30 ml
Drinks Coffee, Tea, Green \ Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water Coffee, Tea, Green \ Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water Coffee, Tea, Green \ Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water, Nuun Tabs

If still hungry for snacks I will eat some more Italian meats with cheese, but normally I will stick to the above plan with no additional snacks.

Foods to Eat

Looking for alternative food staples for a card depletion meals, Try our ‘Meal Planner’ Ideas using some of the alternatives below;

Ensure you eat either three regular-size meals a day or four or five smaller meals. Don’t skip meals or go more than six waking hours without eating. When you’re hungry, you should eat until you are satisfied but not overly full. If you’re unsure, wait ten minutes and have a glass of water to see if you’re still hungry. If you’re not hungry at meal times, you can have a small low carb snack.

The following list is a guide, there are many options for food choices

Meat: Beef, Lamb, Pork, Venison, Ham – Look to avoid processed meats as they are cured with sugar, which will add to your carb count.
Poultry \ Game: Chicken, Duck, Goose, Pheasant, Quail, Turkey and even Ostrich – Grass-fed is best
Fish: Haddock, Cod, Halibut, Salmon, Sardines, Sole, Trout, Tuna – Wild-caught fish is best.
Shellfish: Prawns, Clams, Crab, Lobster, Mussels, Oysters, Shrimp, Squid – Oysters and mussels have a higher carb count, so you should limit these to 115 grams per day.
(High-Fat )
Eggs – A staple breakfast item and Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs are best, Cheese, butter, heavy cream, yogurt.
Vegetables (Salad Raw) Iceburg lettace, Celery, Cuecumber, Mushrooms, Peppers, Rocket, Romaine Lettuce.
Vegetables (Raw or Cooked) Asparagus, Aubergine, Avacados, Bamboo Shots, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Courgette, Green Beans, Kale, Leeks, Okra, Olives (Green \ Black), Rhubarb, Spinach, Cauliflower, Waterchestnuts – and many others.
Fruits: Apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, strawberries.
Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
Fats and Oils: Coconut oil, Butter, Lard, Olive oil – ideal for sautéing, Sunflower oil, Vegetable oil – particularly those labelled ‘cold pressed’, Mayonnaise – provided it has no added sugar
Suggested Drink
  • Coffee
  • Tea including Herbal, Fruit \ Green Teas
  • Water
  • Tap water, Carbonated water – must say no calories, Carbonated soda without artificial sweeteners.
  • Diet soda – be sure to monitor the carb count.
  • Unflavoured soy/almond milk.
  • Cream – single or double.
Some Healthy, Low-Carb Snacks

There is no health reason to eat more than 3 meals per day, but if you get hungry between meals then here are some healthy, easy to prepare low-carb snacks that can fill you up:

  • A Piece of Fruit
  • Full-fat Yogurt
  • A Hard-Boiled Egg or Two
  • A Handful of Nuts
  • Some Cheese and Meat
Foods to avoid
Sugar: Soft drinks, fruit juices, agave, candy, ice cream and many others.
Gluten Grains: Wheat, spelt, barley and rye. Includes breads and pastas.
Trans Fats: Trans Fats: “Hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils. High Omega-6 Seed- and Vegetable Oils: Cottonseed-, soybean-, sunflower-, grapeseed-, corn-, safflower and canola oils.
Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, Cyclamates and Acesulfame Potassium. Use Stevia instead.
“Diet” and “Low-Fat” Products: Many dairy products, cereals, crackers, etc.
Highly Processed Foods: EASY RULE: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.

Remember this is supposed to benefit you preparation for a race not hinder all the hard work you have done in training, using this diet technique may not work for everyone and be very wary of making big changes before your ‘A Race’ all diet changes should be tested and vary from person to person.  ‘Carb depletion’ can be added into a buildup plan but it’s always recommended that you check with a NWM advisor or other nutrition professional.

Food diary

Keeping a food diary is the best way to understand your diet and can help an you become more aware of your eating habits, the many triggers and cues that influence what you eat. In fact, studies show that people who keep a food diary are more successful at changing their eating habits and losing weight.

There are two ways for you to keep a detailed food diary, paper based or using an app.

myfitnesspalexampleA free and easy to use app is myfitnesspal, the app is available via the website or via mobile app stores and has a free version to get you started.  Very simple to use, scanning bar codes and a massive directory or food types to search.  all you need to do is weight the food or add the amount eaten from the pack scanned. This will build a detailed food diary as per the example shown.

An additional benifit if you already track your training activity via a device or website myfitnesspal connects with most of the main tools such as Garmin where there is two way information from myfitnesspal to Garmin Connect.

If you are keeping a paper based diary below are some tips for getting the most out of a food diary:

  • be as detailed as you can with food descriptions
  • include serving sizes – weigh foods where possible
  • rateing your hunger level just before you eat – this will help you identify whether you  are eating for reasons other than hunger
  • if you feel emotional eating is an issue you should record your mood before and after you eat
  • carry the food diary with you and update as you eat, rather than waiting until the end of the day

What should you record?

The basics are to record;

  1. When you eat
  2. What you eat
  3. Rate Hunger on a scale of 1 – 10 (1 being very full and 10 being starving)
  4. Mood
  5. Who were you with

Example Food diary

What you ate Time Where you ate Who where you with Rate – Hunger Mood
Breakfast 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Snack (1) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Lunch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Dinner 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Snack (2) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

With the information gained from a food diary your NWM advisor can understand eating habits, identify any social and emotional cues and habits. This with the food and drink detail your NWM advisor can build the correct plan, including;

  • Understanding your actual nutrition and calorie intake
  • Preform nutritional analysis
  • Advise on food-based recommendations within dietary guidelines
  • Help improve your diets nutritional quality using nutritional analysis