A Machine Needs Fuel…So Give It What It Needs!

Loading up ready for the next day’s training session is not a new concept, chicken and pasta has long been regarded as the staple for most athletes readying themselves for the big match or training session. In major events such as a power lifting competition or the days leading up to a football match, an athlete will often stock up on complex carbohydrates in order to saturate their glycogen (broken down to glucose) stores. They will stock up on protein to reduce catabolism (muscle breakdown) during exercise and to aid recovery afterwards.

The ‘carb loading’ theory is well documented and supported by peer reviewed literature such as Pizza, Flynn, Duscha, et al. (1995), Bussau, Fairchild, Rao, et al. (2002), and many more of the like. Glycogen stores usually range from 100-120mmol/kg of bodyweight, if these stores drop then your body begins to mobilise its fat stores for energy. This might appear as a desirable side effect for some, but despite fats higher energy content per gram (9kcal compared to carbs 4kcal), it isn’t broken down as quickly or efficiently, meaning you hit an energy low spot during exercise until the energy can be fully burned and utilised. Therefore keeping your glycogen stores topped up ready for activity will provide a constant, sustained delivery of glucose ensuring the body remains energised, preventing those peaks and troughs (ups and downs) in energy, which could result in periods of reduced performance.

Starchy polysaccharides are the main fuel for any activity above and beyond 65% of maximum exertion, therefore an athlete should stock up on starchy polysaccharides 2-3 days prior to the event. During the loading phase, an ideal diet would consist of approx 80-90% carbs, aiming for approx 5-10 grams of carbs per kg bodyweight (Minehan, 2004).

The best sources of starchy polysaccharides (complex carbs) include porridge oats, wholegrain pasta (the wholegrain slows the rate of digestion), wholegrain breads, potato, sweet potato, wholegrain or basmati rice, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, or quinoa, legumes (baked beans, cannellini, broad, butter and kidney beans), peas, lentils and chick peas. Alongside this, starchy carbs also deliver some key nutrients involved in energy delivery, muscle repair and general healthfulness including fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

Here’s an example of how you can saturate your glycogen and protein pools ready for the big day!

Pre - Competition Diet Plan

Typical Carb – loading diet providing 3150kcal and 500g Carbohydrate equating to 70% Carbs and7g Carbs per kg bodyweight for an average 75kg person.

The quantities should be adjusted according to your weight and training goals:


45g porridge oats with 350ml skimmed milk +
30g low fat yoghurt + 1x Banana and blend (700kcal; 70g Protein; 80g Carbs)
200ml Fresh orange juice (100kcal; 1g Protein; 20g Carbs)

Mid- Morning

1x Apple (46kcal; 11g Carbs)
2x Tangerines (50kcal; 10g Carbs)


350g baked sweet potato (250kcal; 4g Protein; 69g Carbs)
30g low fat cheese (117kcal; 7g Protein; <1g Carbs)
200g baked beans (164kcal; 10g Protein; 27g Carbs)

Mid- Afternoon

High 5 Sports Bar (203kcal; 3g Protein; 37g Carbs)
500ml isotonic drink (70kcal; 17g carbs)


80g cooked wholemeal pasta (250kcal; 10g Protein; 59g Carbs)
160g boiled chicken breast in 300ml (146kcal; 32g Protein)
200g tinned chopped tomatoes (44kcal; 1g Protein; 7g Carbs)
&frac12; clove garlic
Mixed herbs
500ml isotonic drink (70kcal; 17g carbs)


Banana smoothie made with 200ml semi-skimmed milk, 1x banana and 15-20g honey (200kcal; 8g Protein;47g Carbs)
2x slices wholegrain bread and 50g Jam (210kcal; 50g Carbs)


See tomorrows article for the perfect pre-workout meals/snacks to help keep you energised and in a muscle building state for the duration




Pizza F, X., Flynn, M, G., Duscha, B, D., Holden, J. & Kubitz, E, R. (1995). A carbohydrate loading regimen improves high intensity, short duration exercise performance. International Journal of Sports Nutrition. 5: 110-6.

Bussau, V, A., Fairchild, T, J., Rao, A., Steele, P. & Fournier, P, A. (2002). Carbohydrate loading in human muscle: an improved 1 day protocol. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 87: 290-295.

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
Post a Comment

Please wait...