Carboloading Protocol
Updated 28 February 2005

Carboloading Protocol - Part One

Picked up a new protocol at the OTC. Eat normally pre-race, 10g CHO per KG on the day before the race.


10g CHO per KG, as we don't need to load-up our fat cells, I would adjust downward for an AG athlete with higher body fat percentage. The protocol was done on elites. So I am guessing, male 4-10% body fat.

This is a HUGE amount of CHO to eat in one day. Take me... 73KG -- 730g CHO, 2920 CHO cals. That's a heap on the day before an IM when not training, when glycogen stores are already topped up from reduced training volume.

In order to hit the target I started at midnight with 2 bananas and kept it rolling all day. I swam 90mins, biked 3:30 and ran 1:10 that day. I still felt bloated for a lot of the day.

I ate too much PRO with my CHO -- this made my stomach feel like crap at times and I had plenty-o-gas during my evening run. Something to consider pre-IM. By the end of the day, I was so CHO-ed out that I ate salad for dinner (with two avos and some halibut) I think that an athlete would have to be very organized with CHO consumption breaking it into hourly feedings through the day. This would be a pain for some.

At the OTC they noted that the science on PRO aiding CHO absoption is weak. However, they noted that BCAAs are required post exercise so supported the overall view that PRO is required immediately post exercise (although for different reasons than some folks report). My morning weight was up 3lbs on my simulated "race morning" -- I ate one breakfast at 2AM, a second one at 4AM and then a third at 9:30AM (while bike was repaired).

I held quite a bit of water (possibly useful for hot races like Hawaii). I peed five times in the first two hours of exercise. My hyrdation was good throughout the day.

A leading Kiwi coach, Brendon Downey, has a mate that did a PhD that touched on this subject. He noted that his pal mentioned that CHO-loading may impair fat utilization. For this reason Brendon only recommends CHO-loading for events <4hrs. He's going to set me up with his pal's email so I can talk more. I'll also copy him on this note to make sure that I heard correctly.

My fat utilization was good (but was it optimal?). I ran a considerable calorie deficit for the day -- estimated energy consumption for the day was about 10,000 cals (2,000 BMR and 8,000 for the ride).

I felt flat at the start of the day -- but this is normal at times and I wasn't in a rested state.


I'm going to apply what I learned for a trail marathon that I am running on July 6th as well as a Half Ironman on July 20th. I'll report back as I learn more.

gordo - 27 June 2003

Carboloading Protocol - Part Two

I applied the lessons from part one and learned some new ones.

Key Points:

  1. greatly reduced my PRO intake and this helped with the CHO loading.
  2. split the feedings as much as possible. Used the blender quite a bit -- banana, OJ, water OR banana, OJ, unsweetened rice milk, water
  3. if you are not used to breads and cereals then don't load with them. They can jam you up and you don't want to be carrying a lot of extra weight on race day.
  4. this trial was complicated by a 9.5 hour training day done on Thursday (race was Sat). As a result, I ended up eating a ton on Thursday PM. I should have made a better effort to spread my nutrition out on Thursday.
  5. must hydrate well with the CHO. The glycogen loading requires quite a bit of water. I was surprised at the water I needed. Of course, many people overhydrate pre-race. You certainly don't want to be peeing more than once every hour (tops).
Protocol worked great this time. No excessive urination in the first two hours of training.

Left my scale in Boulder so no weight data.

Haven't contacted the PhD yet. While fat utilization may be impaired, I feel that the hydration benefit will likely over-rule any risks on that front.

Somewhat non-standard race nutrition plan. I drank 1L of cola within 10 minutes of the race start. During the four hour race effort (140-150 bpm at high altitude), I consumed an additional 650 calories of gatorade.

Also consumed 10g of sodium the day before the race. If you try to electrolyte load then only do so the day before the race. Loading up a long way out can cause the body to dump electrolytes and be counterproductive.


Had a good Q...

Should athletes that are trying to lose weight carboload for key workouts, C and B races?

My view is NO. Most of these athletes are MOP/BOP and body composition is a key area of performance enhancement. I find it tough to get back on my nutrition plan after a CHO loading effort (168 lbs this AM, most of it water, I hope). Greatest performance gains will come from a continuous focus on nutritional excellence. Never deviate from focusing on your key limiters.

So how will they know if they are OK to CHO load during an A race?

They don't need to do so for an A race either. See IM Nutrition notes. Small servings of CHO is all that is required during the day before the race.

gordo - 7 July 2003

Carboloading -- Part Three and Race Week Nutrition

[ Q came from Male, 160-165 lbs. ]

You've got it right -- 730g of CHO is just under 3,000 carbo calories. With my own carbo-loading I've found that it is best that these are taken in lots of small meals (more snacks than meals). You also need to ensure adequate hydration -- a favourite of mine is a blender of one banana, one pint fruit or carrot juice and water/ice (to dilute) -- I'll throw down quite a few of these through the day. For best CHO absorption, I find that it is best NOT to add much protein. This is counter to what the Endurox people claim but it's my view of the most effective protocol.

Fibre -- you don't want to be throwing down a huge amount of fibre -- that's why I like low pulp OJ, filtered apple juice... Most folks have an 18 hr GI timing so everything before 1p should be through you. In reality, I find that race morning nerves and a cup of coffee will blow everything through the system. So there's little practical risk.

Breads & Cereals -- if you follow my nutrition recommendations then DO NOT carbo-load with bread because you will likely find that this can jam you right up. You don't want that. There is a similar but reduced risk for highly processed cold cereals -- I like mixed grain, unprocessed hot cereals in moderation.

Yes, you should have tried this before in training -- but you didn't... :-) so the decision is yours. Personally, I see little risk from this protocol.

Race Week -- eat light all race week -- very little starch, no sugar, quite low fat, no sports nutrition products, train with water only -- especially at the carboload (which I skip). Do not load up before Saturday -- it's not needed for glycogen purposes and will simply have you gain unneeded weight.

The protocol that I recommend is current best practice by the US Olympic Team.

gordo - 19 August 2003


I am going to follow gordo's protocol on carbo loading the day before, I'm pretty strict when it comes to my diet, a bagel every once and a while. My question what should I eat to squeeze in all of those CHO calories, I assume that I want to try to stay away from high fiber foods and high sugars. I saw that gordo loaded with some fruit juices, isnt that pretty much straight up sugar. Looking for some ideas and guidance, if not I guess I could eat 10 apples and 8 eight banana's, just kidding, well not really.
    - Jeff

Answer by KP:

On saturday I wanted about 3000 CHO calories and about 1500 protein and essential fat calories. I weighed about 180lbs or just under 82 kilos.

I drank:
1/2 gallon of OJ - no pulp (800cal)
2 liters of rice milk (800cal)
1 liter of filtered apple juice (400cal)

I ate:
Salmon filet
White chicken breast
Non fat cottage cheese
12 grain hot cereal

Race Morning:
6 eggs
hot cereal
whey protein/banana smoothie

Added 28 February 2005


Hey G,

I have read and understand your carbo-loading protocols as well as Ultrafits. More curious as to what foods you actually plan on eating both the night before your race and pre race breakfast. I believe you may have added eggs, but wasn't sure. I have also noticed oatmeal as a suggestion, but I thought that oatmeal can be high in fiber.

On the bike will you use the same strategy as Canada? 2500 calories of CraboPro and Hammer gel with water starting after 40 minutes? Also regarding caffeine, obviously you get it on the run from coke/pepsi, but will you take in any on the bike to aid fat metabolism?

Finally before the race will you cut caffeine (i.e. No Coffee) out of your diet for a period to heighten you sensitivity like Peter Reid and will you take any the morning of the race?

Thanks in advance for sharing. You have been such a great influence to so many!



I like oatmeal or cous cous or potatoes -- the main fibre that I drop out is the large amount that I get from all the fruit that I eat.

I eat whole eggs daily -- I find that most triathletes have an unwarranted fear of egg yolks -- the issue is highly processed foods and refined sugars/starches.

I'll have 2400 cals of Pro4 Gel Lite in a bike bottle with 1200 cals in a back up bottle in Special Needs. I'll also have an over-strength (600 cals) bottle of energy & electrolyte mixed up.

Run is as much cola as I can get. I'll also supplement with two FuelBelts filled with Gel Lite -- also considering starting the run with a bottle. I feel that I lost 1-3 minutes at the end of IMC due to an inability to get calories from the aid stations. I was on 2:43 pace through 20 miles and finished the race with slurred speach and on vapours -- not a bad effort really...

While some talk about caffeine aiding fat metobolism, the exercise physioloigists that I trust don't think that's the mechanism through which we get the ergogenic effect.

I tend to take less caffeine on a race day than for a key day in training.

I don't cut coffee out -- it would be counterproductive. It's a recreational product for me and helps me eat less when training volume falls. However, Baron's dramatically cut his intake to get a bigger response during the race.

I'll have mug of strong coffee race morning.

Night before -- typically, potatoes/eggs/mushrooms or protein with cous cous. Morning potatoes/eggs/mushroons -- possibly salmon or oatmeal -- depends on how I feel. As soon as I get out of bed -- protein smoothie with sodium citrate.

Carboloading -- mainly filtered apple juice and rice milk -- I think that many people waaaay over do it here. Using carboloading as an excuse for a pre-race binge. For me, it's not that much additional calories for an athlete used to training 28-32 hours per week. Just a little bit more food.

So all the above is what I do -- what I'd recommend for others is that they simply stick to their normal routine for a big day of training. Don't make radical changes -- the day is tough enough without the additional stress of a big change in nutritional strategy.

Same thing with race week -- eat normally, just chop the sugar/starch/sports nutrition. Don't hyperhydrate or go crazy with electrolytes.



I'm interested in using cola during my next race. What's the best way to train with cola? Should I use it during all long runs (2 to 2.5 hours)? Should I also use it on T-runs following long rides?

Ever since I have adopted the paleo diet I have been pretty gassy. Is that just because of all the fruit? Any other possible causes?

Have you cut out the sodium phosphate loading? What about supplements?


Suggest that you use cola in a C priority race if you want to try.

Gas -- for men, most often due to insufficient chewing (no joke).

Sodium phosphate -- I'll use that but I don't think that it's a big deal.

Supplements -- you'll need to be more specific with your Q -- not sure what you are asking -- I posted my daily sups from last summer a while back.

Overall -- you want a simple strategy. There's not secret sugar, supplement or strategy to give us anything more than what our preparation will allow.

It's about being fit, fresh and focused after doing our best preparation given our life situation.