Carbohydrate loading is a protocol that endurance athletes, and often bodybuilders, use to fill their body's glycogen (carbohydrate/energy) stores in order to delay fatigue and maximize their muscle size, respectively, for the day of competition. Carbohydrate (CHO) loading gives the muscles their ability to super-compensate glycogen stores (store more CHO/energy than under normal conditions) giving the endurance athlete greater energy reserves so they can perform longer and faster and yields larger looking muscles for bodybuilders since the majority of glycogen is stored in muscle.
Carbohydrate Loading Method
The most popular carbohydrate-loading technique requires that you first deplete your muscle glycogen stores by reducing your carbohydrate intake and exercise intensity for a few days. This is followed by a reloading phase over the next few days when you increase your carbohydrate intake and taper off exercise. By following this protocol, the body will “super compensate” and store as much as two to three times the amount of glycogen (potential energy) than normal. The result is extended/maximal muscle energy stores on the day of competition, allowing for optimal performance. This loading method normally begins seven days prior to prolonged endurance events and tournaments with multiple games/matches lasting several hours. This technique is illustrated in the table below.
Table 1: Sherman/Costill Carbohydrate Loading Regime