Carbohydrate Loading for Bodybuilding Competition

carb loadingThere are currently two types of carbohydrate loading methods among bodybuilders who prepare for competition. The first is the gradual carbohydrate loading regime and this is the most effective and preferred means of preparing for an event.

The second is the three-day carbohydrate depletion and load technique. Although the three-day competition preparation regime is widely used it is quite physically and mentally taxing.

One to two weeks prior to the competition and before beginning the gradual loading program, the bodybuilder must reach his/her desired body fat percentage. At this point, the athlete's carbohydrate and glycogen levels will be at their lowest levels. Maintaining this schedule allows for a slow caloric increase prior to the contest. The additional calories fill glycogen stores and enhance fullness and hardness of muscles from stringent dieting.

The gradual method is the safer carbohydrate loading method and is equally effective in terms conditioning for contest day. It also provides the bodybuilder with the greatest possible amount of energy for competition day.

Following a competition, the statement most commonly made by bodybuilders is, "I looked much better the day after the show". This observation is often accurate and it generally holds true for up to a week following the contest. The explanation is twofold.

First, everyone experiences some muscle loss while extreme dieting prior to a competition. If a bodybuilder continues to diet in a severe caloric restrictive manner until a few days prior to the contest it won't be possible for the muscle loss to return prior to the contest. A bodybuilder that performs the calorie restricted diet one or two weeks prior to the competition is able to increase his/her calories slowly to allow muscles to return to the fullest levels without risk.

The same reason a bodybuilder looks better after an event is that the short carbohydrate load period of one to three days prior to the competition may not provide sufficient time to completely fill glycogen levels. This is particularly relevant when glycogen stores are continually being depleted through posing practice, training, and the diet leaving the bodybuilder appearing flat.

Since the three day period load phase does not provide ample time to fill glycogen stores, the bodybuilder may overeat in an attempt to replenish the lost glycogen and fullness in muscles. Overeating may lead to spillage and water retention, which causes a smooth appearance. Thus, a gradual increase in calories will provide the time, nutrients, and energy necessary to re-establish muscle mass.

carb loading The three-day carbohydrates deplete and load method is still popular but it is not the preferred technique for competition preparation. It is important to keep in mind that this method is exceptionally taxing both mentally and physically and is only successful one or two times per year.

If a bodybuilder were unable to reach his/her desired body fat percentage prior to the competition, the method of choice would be the three-day method. Carbohydrate glycogen depletion would be the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday prior to competition (only if prejudging is on a Saturday) prior to the competition. Beginning on the Wednesday the protein intake should be reduced and the carbohydrate intake should be increased simultaneously.

Beginning on Friday, subtract 500 calories from Thursday's total caloric intake. This reduction helps lower the risk of glycogen spillage and water retention. However, if the bodybuilder continues to appear harder and more vascular throughout the day on Friday, repeat Thursday's calories. The total caloric intake should be divided into small meals spaced two to three hours apart. The best method to identify glycogen spillage is to observe the muscles where the calf ties in at the ankle and the pectoral muscles. If these areas start to blur, or do not look as tight as they should abstain from carbohydrates until Saturday morning.

Weight training during the depletion phase should consist of high repetitions. The number of repetitions allows the athlete to thoroughly deplete the glycogen stores within the muscle. Cardiovascular exercise should be very low intensity throughout Tuesday. Continue to follow Friday's diet through Saturday morning. Especially on competition day, it is critical that all meals are small to insure that no bloating occurs and abstain from eating for one hour prior to pre-judging. After pre-judging continue to eat small meals every two to three hours for up to an hour prior to the finals.



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