Why 'Carb Loading' Could Be Doing You More Harm Than Good

You've probably heard it before: The night before the big race is the best time to dig into a triple portion of your favorite pasta dish, and lap up any of that extra sauce with your own personal baguette. There will be no side dish of guilt either because you've heard 'carb loading' is what a lot of professional athletes do the day before they have to perform. But before you say 'pass the pasta' for the third time, know that loading up on carbohydrates leading up to a period of exercise could actually do more harm than good.

According to Healthline, increasing your carbohydrate intake increases the amount of glycogen stored in both the muscles and liver. And extra glycogen can be used as fuel for those times you exert more energy than usual. So it may seem logical (and delicious) to carb load the night before engaging in a longer period of exercise. While this widely popular practice could be beneficial, there are a few mistakes that many of us are making in the process.

Opt for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables

WebMD claims that although it's important to increase the percentage of carbs you consume leading up to the big race, you should not be increasing your overall calorie consumption. This may lead to uncomfortable bloating and weight gain overtime. Another harmful choice people often make leading up to race day is treating all carbs the same. We know, it could be those pre-race jitters that are leading you to hungrily munch away on a tower of bagels, but the most optimal carbs for fuel come from potatoes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, notes Run to the Finish.

In addition to overeating and indulging in the wrong type of carbohydrates, Healthline shares that it can also be harmful to carb load when it isn't necessary. Research has shown that packing in the extra carbohydrates is only necessary for periods of exercise longer than 90 minutes. So if your big race is a 5k, then you may actually end with a better time if you avoid the triple-portion pasta dinner.