nutrition guide

How to Carb Load for Peak Sports Performance in 2024

Carb-loading is normally undertaken prior to a major event. It’s a technique that can increase your body’s carbohydrate stores by 30% or more. Here is an effective and easy method that does not require long periods of non training or a radical change to your diet.

How to Carb Load Summary

Carb loading is a strategic approach used by endurance athletes to maximise glycogen stores in muscles before a major event. Here's how to effectively implement carb loading, incorporating the essential keywords:

  • Carb Loading Explained: Carb loading involves increasing your carb intake to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight two days before your event. This process boosts muscle glycogen stores, providing a significant energy reserve for race day.
  • Start Carb Loading Early: Begin the carb loading phase 3 days before your competition, reducing mileage and focusing on a high carbohydrate intake. This gradual increase allows your body to maximise muscle glycogen storage without the need for drastic dietary changes or weight gain.
  • Choosing the Right Foods: Eat foods rich in carbohydrates, such as energy gels, energy gummies, and bread, to increase your carb intake. To avoid the bulkiness of carb-rich foods and ensure you're consuming enough, supplement with HIGH5 Energy Drink and Energy Bars, which are designed to support muscle recovery and glycogen replenishment.
  • Carb Intake for Different Athletes: Whether you're a runner, cyclist, or triathlete, adjusting your carb loading strategy to fit your sport and body weight is crucial. Aim for 10 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight, using sports drinks and energy bars to help meet your goals without consuming too much simple sugar.
  • Hydration and Electrolytes: While carb loading, it's also essential to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance. Isotonic gels and drinks not only provide energy but also contain essential electrolytes to support blood flow and hydration, ensuring you're well-prepared for your event.

Implementing these strategies allows athletes to optimise their performance by ensuring their muscles have the energy needed to sustain race pace and endurance throughout their event.

Follow this guide in the 3 days leading up to your competition


Reduce your mileage 4 to 5 days before your event.

Two days before your event, increase your carbohydrate intake to 10 grams per kg of body weight. For a 70kg runner that would be 700 grams each day. If that’s too much, then try to get as close as you can to that amount.

Most runners often don’t reach the required intake, as carbohydrate-rich foods are normally bulky. To avoid the bulk, drink 500ml of HIGH5 Energy Drink every 2 to 3 hours during the day and snack on 2 or 3 Energy Bars. This will provide around 350g of carbohydrate, your normal diet should provide the rest.

Woman drinking

Cyclists & Triathletes

Reduce your mileage 4 to 5 days before your event.

Each morning drink 750ml of Energy Drink. Wait for 30 minutes, then jump onto your bike and warm up easy for 10 minutes. Follow that warm up with a single 3 minute sprint. You should aim for a good lactic acid build-up during the sprint, which will encourage your body to store carbohydrate.

You should then aim to consume 10 grams of carbohydrate per kg body weight during the day. For a 70kg rider that would be 700 grams of carbohydrate per day.

Athletes often find it difficult to consume that amount of carbohydrate using normal food. To avoid the bulk of high-carb foods: every three hours drink 500ml of Energy Drink and eat one Energy Bar. After 12 hours this will provide you with around 360 grams of carbohydrate. Your normal high carbohydrate diet should provide the rest.

HIGH5 Energy Drink

Energy Drink is a scientifically formulated carbohydrate and electrolyte solution to help you sustain your performance and enhance your hydration during endurance exercise.

Carb Loading FAQs 


What is the proper way to carb load?

The proper way to carb load involves gradually increasing your carbohydrate intake to about 10 grams per kilogram of body weight each day, starting three days before your endurance event. This nutritional strategy is designed to maximise glycogen levels in your muscles, effectively filling up your "fuel tank" for improved exercise performance.

What food is good for carb loading?

Good foods for carb loading include complex carbohydrates like pasta, rice, bread, and sweet potatoes. These foods help store glycogen efficiently without causing significant weight gain. Avoid new or unusual foods that might upset your stomach.

How many days does it take to carb load?

The carb loading period typically takes about three days. This timeframe allows your body to maximise muscle glycogen levels gradually, ensuring you're fully fuelled for your endurance event.

What is the classic carb loading method?

The classic carb loading method involves a depletion phase followed by a loading phase. Initially, you would start with a low carb diet while continuing training to deplete glycogen stored, then switch to a high carb diet closer to the event. However, many athletes now prefer a more modern approach that doesn't require the depletion phase, focusing instead on increasing carb intake in the days leading up to the event.

Is it better to carb load morning or night?

Carb loading can be effective both in the morning and at night. The key is to maintain a high carb diet throughout the carb loading period to ensure glycogen stores are optimised. Some athletes find a substantial carbohydrate-rich meal the night before the event beneficial, while others prefer to spread their carb intake evenly throughout the day.

Should I carb load for a 5K?

Carb loading is generally not necessary for a 5K, as the distance doesn't typically deplete muscle glycogen levels to the extent that longer endurance events do. For shorter races, focus on a balanced diet and ensure you're well-hydrated.

How many hours before should I carb load?

Start carb loading about 72 hours before your endurance event. This timing allows you to gradually increase your muscle glycogen levels without the risk of common carb loading mistakes, such as consuming too much sugar or deviating from your usual nutritional strategy with new or high protein diet choices that could impact performance.

By following these guidelines and focusing on complex carbs, athletes can ensure they're adopting an effective fueling strategy, as recommended by sports medicine experts, to enhance endurance and performance.






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