What Is The Simple, Straightforward Approach To Carb-Loading?

What is the simple, straightforward approach to carb-loading? Carb-loading is used for various athletic endeavors and bodybuilding... Here are must-have plans and tips on carb loading to success. Learn more!

The Question:

Many athletes will use carb-loading prior to a big event for increased performance.

What is the simple, straightforward approach to carb-loading?

Which type of events would carb-loading be very beneficial for?

Which events would carb-loading not be necessary for?

Can one use supplements to carb-load, or should they use food?

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        1st place - 75 in store credit.

        2nd place - 50 in store credit.

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1st Place - Mfranke
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The Simple, Straightforward Approach To Carb-Loading.

Carb-loading is used for various athletic endeavors, particularly cycling and long distance endurance events like marathons. Typically the carb-load process is performed by depleting carbohydrates for several days and then reloading your muscles with glycogen for the upcoming event.

The purpose of this is to give your muscles the maximum amount of glycogen possible to increase aerobic capacity for your competition. Carb-loading is also done for aesthetic purposes such as a photo shoot and more importantly a bodybuilding competition.

I will discuss the carb-load process for bodybuilding as this is Bodybuilding.com

The purpose of carb-loading for bodybuilding is to create a full-muscular look when you are onstage. Full muscles will give you a larger appearance as well as help tighten your skin against the muscles giving you a hard, vascular appearance which is very important if you want to win or place well in your competition.

Unfortunately, many bodybuilders overcomplicate this process and end up over carbing and place far worse than what they could have if they never carbed up in the first place!

What Happens When You Overcarb?

Carbohydrates bind with water. To get the hard, dry appearance that is desirable you have to take in just enough carbs to fill your muscles with glycogen and water, but not too much that the carbs (spill over) and cause you to hold subcutaneous water.

Think of your muscles as a sponge. Just enough water will keep the sponge nice and full, but too much and water will spill all over the place!

What Is The Best Way To Carb-Load Properly?

Assuming that you are a natural competitor and not taking diuretics I will outline a very effective way to give you a nice full appearance without the spillover effect.


    • Perform light full-body circuit workout to help deplete glycogen stores.
    • Keep carb intake to 50-100 grams.


  • Again 50-100 grams


    • At 6 p.m. start the carb-loading process
    • Eat small meals every two hours of 30 grams carbs

Carbs should come from: oatmeal,, and bananas.

Saturday (Show Time)

      • Wake up at 7 a.m. and have another 30 grams of carbs.
      • Two hours before pre-judging have a meal containing 50 grams of carbs and 30 grams of fat.
      • 15 minutes before going onstage sip some Gatorade or sugar drink.

Sodium manipulation is also an important part of a proper carb load:

2 weeks out from competition increase sodium intake by 1 gram.

1 week out slowly taper down intake until you only take a maximum 1 gram per day until Saturday morning.

Saturday morning add salt to meal 2 hours before prejudging. At this time also eat a handful of raisins. They contain high levels of potassium which will also enhance your ability to allow the muscles to fill out and remove the subcutaneous water.

Your body will be somewhat depleted of sodium and the extra salt in this meal will really help your muscles suck all the water into the muscle and not underneath the skin. Don't be afraid of salt at this time, completely eliminating it is a mistake. This will really fill you out and keep you from cramping onstage!

      No need to manipulate water intake throughout this process. This is a common mistake started by bodybuilders using steroids that make them retain water. No diuretics or drastically cutting water!!! This will make you flat.

Which Events Would Carb-Loading Not Be Necessary For?

Carb-loading is not beneficial for sports such as football or basketball, as these are usually 2 - 3 hours. Carb-loading is meant for high endurance sports and for enhancing muscle appearance for bodybuilding/figure competitions.

Can One Use Supplements To Carb-Load, Or Should They Use Food?

Supplements are not necessary for the carb-load process. You can take carb supplements like waxy maize or dextrose during the carb-up process, but I feel more complex carbs are a better choice. People also take Niacin to help flush more blood to the surface of the skin to give them a more vascular appearance.

I Feel More Complex Carbs Are A Better Choice.
+ Click To Enlarge.
I Feel More Complex Carbs Are A Better Choice.

I recommend experimenting with the carb-load process about three weeks out from your competition if you want to see exactly how your body responds.

Remember, use the mirror to guide you. If you still appear flat, go ahead and increase carbs. If you look great, don't change a thing!

Also be aware that it is better to be a little flat and be ripped than to be really full and spill over and appear big and smooth!

2nd Place - History in Effect
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What Is The Simple, Straightforward Approach To Carb-Loading?

First Three Days Consume Less Than 50 Grams A Day

Carbs are consumed after working out where glycogen level are at the lowest. This is why many post-workout supplements contains high amounts of carbs because your body needs those carbs to recover adequately.

Next Two Days Consume About 100 To 150

The first three days were brutal and now its time for your body to take in more carbs. Carbs give you a fuller look and you need these carbs to prevent getting a flat, fatigued look. I like taking in carbs during my morning meal, pre-workout meal, and post-workout meal. My carbs go up with each meal.

Final Two Days Are High Carb Days Over 150

Your body has no clue what to expect on these days, but these high carbs help build muscle and keep it. Low-carb diets work, but not enough carbs makes you flat and in fact you will get more hungry over time.

This routine is favorable in my opinion. I have tinkered with this program in the past and found it work wonders when done right. This program is very similar to Chris Aceto (AKA Jay Cutler's nutritionist). If it can be done with Jay, imagine how you would look following it. Your metabolism is constantly changing during this cycle, but no doubt you will look good in the mirror.

Which Type Of Events Would Carb-Loading Be Very Beneficial For?

Long-distance/endurance types of events. These athletes daily have to deal with grueling practices everyday. I seen my friends in high school runs miles for a long time.

Running depletes glycogen stores which in turn means less energy. Carb loading insures your glycogen stores are loaded to the max which guarantees more energy for the athlete. Soccer, marathons, hockey are just a few sports where carb-loading is beneficial. Bodybuilding is another sport where carb-loading at the right time can provide the perfect mix of size and conditioning.

Which Events Would Carb-Loading Not Be Necessary For?

Carb-loading is not necessary for events like golf or Nascar where your body is doing less. Golfing is an incredibly hard sport, but carb loading is not necessary because it's not a sport of that nature which requires it. Golf is based on skill, ability to read the green, judge wind, and use the right clubs given to you by the caddy.

Nascar is skilled driving in circles or on road courses, but you are not physically taking a beating in the way a marathon runner is. I love Nascar and golf, so this is not a shot at either.

+ Click To Enlarge.
Nascar Is Skilled Driving, But You Aren't Taking
A Beating The Way Marathon Runners Do.

Can One Use Supplements To Carb-Load, Or Should They Use Food?

Food should be the first thing used when tried to carb-load. Many runners use pasta before a race or eat a high-carb meal. Food is the name of the game and is usually much cheaper for the athlete.

I have personally eaten bananas before a basketball game, so I would not cramp up and also to have maximum energy. If you have food, use it as the high-carb source.

On some occasions, I have used supplements or drinks to prepare for a basketball game. Gatorade or PowerAde are two drinks that come to my mind, but I use them sparingly. Food is the way to go, but if you need something quick choose either one of these.

What you have read is hopefully simple and straightforward. Source used, but not necessarily quoted, include Chris Aceto list of books on training and nutrition.

3rd Place - g4owensj
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Simple, Straightforward Approach To Carb-loading...

Here is the summary with a detailed listing to follow (12 week show prep time):

Sample carbs if off-season carbs are at 300 grams per day:

Weeks 12 - 7

    200 Grams Carbs/Day
    • Carb Level To 66% (2/3) Of Off-Season Carb Level
    • 1 Gallon Water

Weeks 6 - 5

    150 Grams Carbs/Day
    • Cut Carb Level 25% (1/4) From Weeks 12-7
    • 1 To 2 Gallons Water

Weeks 4 - 2

    1-150 Grams Carbs/Day, 3-75 Grams Carbs/Day
    • Cycle 1 High Carb Day (Week 6&5 Level) With 3 Days Of 1/2 Carbs (1/2 Week 5&6)
    • 2 Gallons Water

Final Week

Tuesday - Thursday Afternoon

      • Zero Carbs
      • Only Protein
      • No Salt
      • 2-3 Gallons Water

Thursday Afternoon To Friday Afternoon

      • Zero Protein
      • No Salt
      • 2 Cups Whole-Grain Carbs Every 2.5 Hours
      • Sip Water As Needed

Friday Afternoon

      • Whole Grain Carbs With The Addition Of Natural Sugars
      • No Salt
      • Sip Water As Needed

Saturday (Show Day)

      • Sugary Carbs With Rice Cakes And Jam
      • 4 Oz Water With Breakfast

More In-Depth Explanation

First off, I don't think that there's a "simple" way to carb-load. I say that because for the carb load to be completely effective you need to carb deplete as well as pay attention to your water and salt intakes as well.

My pre-contest diet starts off at about twelve weeks out, cutting my carbs down to about two-thirds of what they normally are during the off season (from 300g to 200g) for the first six weeks while taking in about one gallon of water each day.

This shock to my body will drop pretty good amounts of fat from the body, but keep the carbs up high enough to really be able to set up the carb depletion that leads up to the carb-loading. The key to a good carb-loading is the ability to shock the body.

For weeks six and five I will drop the carbs one-quarter from 200g to 150g a day. Again what this will do is shock the body and help reduce the calorie intake of your diet. I will also take in about one to gallons of water a day as well.

I Will Take In About One To Two Gallons Of Water A Day.
+ Click To Enlarge.
I Will Take In About One To
Two Gallons Of Water A Day.

For weeks four through two I will do little carb deplete/load cycles. This will be one day of normal carb counts from weeks six and five, followed by three days of half carbs. I will also drink two gallons of water a day during this period.

This cycle has two effects, first it will again shock your body, and help to begin ridding your body of excess water. The second benefit is by doing this you can tell how your body is going to react to the carb-loading and depletion.

Keep on eye on vascularity in the morning as this will be different for everybody and you can use what you see to help aid in how you do the final carb-load depletion and loading.

Week one, the show week, with the show being on Saturday, this is what you want to do. Starting Tuesday you will stop eating any carbs. You want to minimize your carbs to as little as possible. This will continue to Thursday afternoon or Friday morning depending on how your body is looking.

During this time you will drink two to three gallons of water a day and limiting your salt intake to as little as possible. This will begin to flush out all of the water from your skin, and by mid day of Thursday or Friday morning you should have a dry look (not holding water in your skin) you will also appear flat in your muscles, no worry, as this is what the carb depletion is supposed to do. Now as for water, from Thursday afternoon (about 2 p.m.), only sip water as needed, no gulping.

Now comes the carb-loading. From Thursday afternoon or Friday morning depending on how your looking you will want to switch to no protein and only natural whole grain carbs as well as only sipping water as needed. You will eat about 1.5 - 2 cups of carbs every 2.5 hours.

This will last until Friday afternoon at about 2 p.m. At that time you can start to have some natural sugars like jams and dried fruits. At this point if you can hold off on water then do so. One main point on the carb-loading is there is no eating anything after about 8 p.m.

Now the day of the show you will want to wake up and eat some sugary carbs, I suggest fudge or cake icing. When you wake up you should be very dry and vascular, but your muscles should be filling up and look big.

This morning you can have about 8 oz of coffee or tea or water, but again only sip and don't gulp (this will help fill your muscles as well). This will be followed with rice cakes as well as jams with the sugary carbs through out the day. The idea is to give you energy through out the day.


The key to carb loading is proper depletion ahead of time, so that you have enough carbs in your diet to make a shock to your body. You can adjust this to work with your diet, but this is as easy as it gets. You want to make sure you have enough carbs to be able to trick your body into thinking it's starving for carbs and then supply it with carbs, because it will store as much as possible that way, and it will store them in your muscles, making them appear larger!