5 Ways to Carb Up Effectively
If you’re an endurance athlete or someone who competes or is interested in bodybuilding or fitness competitions, you’ve probably heard people talk about how they carb up before they compete and how it helps their performance or physique. But for those who have no clue how to carb up effectively or even what that means, we are going to dive a little deeper into the topic in this article.
Disclaimer: It is recommended that you speak to your doctor or certified sports nutritionist before preparing for any sort of competition where you are drastically manipulating your carbohydrates for performance or aesthetic reasons to ensure you are healthy enough to do so.
What Does it Mean to Carb Up?
“Carbing up” refers to the practice of consuming a large amount of carbohydrates in the days leading up to a competition or event, such as a bodybuilding show or endurance race.
The idea is that by increasing carbohydrate intake, the body will have more glycogen stored in the muscles, which can be used as energy during the event. Athletes and bodybuilders use this practice to boost performance and increase muscle fullness.
5 Ways to Carb Up Effectively
There are several ways to “carb up” before a competition or event. Below are five ways to carb up effectively to help achieve the results you desire. Being that there are different methods, you should try each of these different methods and see how your body and performance responds with each to see which is the best option for you.
1. Gradual Increase
The first method of how to carb up effectively is through gradual increase. This method involves gradually increasing your carbohydrate intake over the course of several days leading up to the event. This allows the body to adjust and avoid gastrointestinal discomfort and issues.
2. Cyclic Carbohydrates
Next on our list of ways to carb up effectively is cyclic carbohydrates. This method involves alternating high and low carbohydrate intake over several days, such as higher carb days and lower carb days. This allows the body to still get the benefits of carb loading while avoiding the negative effects of consuming too many carbohydrates at once.
3. Depletion and Loading
This method of carbing up involves first depleting your glycogen stores through exercise and low carbohydrate intake and then following that up with a period of high carbohydrate intake to “load” glycogen stores. This method is a favorite among many bodybuilders but one that also requires careful planning.
4. High Carbohydrate Diet
The fourth method on how to carb up effectively involves consuming a diet that is high in carbohydrates for several days leading up to the event. This is the most traditional and straightforward way to carb up and does not involve manipulating carbs where there are high and low days or high and moderate days. Many endurance athletes prefer this method so that they have plenty of energy during their competition and help maximize their performance.
5. Leverage Specific Supplements
Last on our list of ways to carb up effectively involves using very specific supplements. There are supplements out there that can help you replenish glycogen stores, shuttle carbohydrates into the muscle where they can be stored rather than shuttled into fat cells, as well as supplements that can help you better digest your carb-heavy meals and minimize the risk of digestive issues and discomfort.
After working with many athletes, 22X Olympia winning coach Hany Rambod launched three supplements that revolve around carbohydrates that you can utilize to help maximize your results. Let’s take a quick overview of what these supplements are.
First on the list of supplements is Evogen Nutrition Evolog. This particular supplement is known as a nutrient partitioning agent, where it helps improve digestion, maximizes glucose optimization, and supports muscle volumization by shuttling meals that are high in carbohydrates into the muscle.
Next is Evogen Nutrition Evozyme. If you’ve ever had a heavy-carb meal and then felt digestive discomfort following, it may be due to being unable to fully break down the food you ate. Evozyme helps improve digestion, absorption, and utilization so that you can get the most out of the carbs you consume and can use them versus eliminating them from the body due to not properly breaking them down.
The final supplement to consider when looking to carb up effectively is Evogen Nutrition GlycoJect. Hany created this performance-enhancing super carb matrix to help both bodybuilders and endurance athletes. GlycoJect can help bodybuilders push glycogen into the muscles to help them achieve that full and hard look they need on stage. On the other hand, GlycoJect is perfect for endurance athletes to help drive carbs into the muscle cells to boost endurance levels and overall performance.
It’s important to note that when doing any of the above methods, you’ll want to ensure you are also consuming enough quality protein and healthy fats to maintain muscle mass and support overall health.
What Foods Should You Consider to Carb Up Effectively?
When “carbing up,” it is best to consume complex carbohydrates as opposed to simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are typically more nutrient-dense and take longer for the body to break down, providing a steady source of energy.
Some examples of complex carbohydrates that are often recommended for carb loading include:
- Whole grains: such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta.
- Starchy vegetables: such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams.
- Legumes: such as lentils, black beans, and chickpeas.
- Fruits: such as bananas, apples, and berries.
- Nuts and seeds: such as almonds, cashews, and chia seeds.
Something to take note of is that depending on the purpose of your carb up, you may want to choose certain carbohydrates over others, which we lay out below.
What Carbohydrates Should Bodybuilders Consider?
If you’re competing in a bodybuilding or fitness show, you would want to carb up with something more along the lines of sweet potatoes, white potatoes, or similar as they tend to be lower in fat content while still being high in carbohydrates.
The goal here is to carb up effectively without blurring the physique and musculature. Some carbohydrates can fill you up but cause you to look smooth and lose all of your definition and vascularity due to your body retaining water.
While every bodybuilder and competitor is different, you’ll want to play around with your sources during your carb up to learn your body and how it best responds since everyone is different.
Related Article: Importance of Using Carbohydrates to Build Lagging Body Parts
Typically, bodybuilders will start to carb up 2-3 days before a competition. Many experts would recommend anywhere from 3-4 grams of carbs per pound of body weight to carb up effectively.
What Carbohydrates Should Endurance Athletes Consider?
When looking at endurance athletes and how they can carb up effectively, they tend to be on the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of goals. They are more performance-driven, and looking “soft” doesn’t mean much of anything to them since the outcome of their competition has nothing to do with how they look.
Endurance athletes tend to lean more towards pasta dishes, grains, oats, fruit, potatoes, beans, and even sports drinks to carb up effectively before a race or competition.
To get the best results and to carb up effectively, endurance athletes should start their carb up a couple of days in advance and look to consume anywhere from 4-7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight during this period.