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Carb Loading

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Carb Loading

Posted by Chip

I originally posted this two years ago (January 2020)...but it didn't migrate to our new website, so re-posting...


For my fellow competitors, an interesting new study on carb loading...

For many decades now, it has been a common practice for bodybuilders and physique competitors to do some sort of carb loading close to competition as a "peaking" strategy to improve their appearance on stage by having the muscles look fuller and bigger.  However, there as never really been a study looking at this until one published last month.  

The takeaway: More aggressive carb loading following a low carb period in a dieted state increases muscular thickness, girths, and the appearance of size, while a less aggressive carb load results in no measurable change. 

The study: "Carbohydrate Loading Practice in Bodybuilders: Effects on Muscle Thickness, Photo Silhouette Scores, Mood States and Gastrointestinal Symptoms." Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 2019 Dec 1;18(4):772-9.  https://www.jssm.org/hf.php?id=jssm-18-772.xml

Study details: 24 male bodybuilders, between 20-35 years old, competing at national-level competitions in Brazil were studied.  The researches compared two groups: ones who entered a positive energy balance by consuming 8-12g/kg of carbs the day prior to and day of competition and ones who increased by 5g/kg.  For the first group, muscular girths and thicknesses increased and a panel of seven bodybuilding judges rated their physiques as having improved from baseline on a physique photo silhouette scale.  For the other group that increased carbs by a smaller amount, there was no improvement seen.

This is the first and only study to validate a high carbohydrate loading as a peaking strategy. As many competitors know, an aggressive carb load may come with gastrointestinal discomfort.  However, that can often be reduced by making increases carbs over more than a single day.  As well, the day or two before a show is often not the best time to introduce foods you haven't been regularly consuming; stick with carbs you or your client have been using.

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