And a No Carb Left Behind Diet (sure, it's a thing) needn't even involve a journey to Italy, like it did for Julia Roberts (go watch, or better yet read Eat Pray Love if this is concept new to you). No shortage of carbs in SoCal.
Okay, so we have established that carb-loading (defined as stuffing one's face with carbohydrates to increase glycogen stores in the days preceding endurance athletic events) is legit and must be done...and since it's so much fun, I wonder how many of us ever stop and wonder why we really do it.
|Yeah, that's my lover. Glucose.|
For one, research does not conclusively show that there is a significant improvement in performance for runners, especially women, though it's generally accepted to be beneficial. (Plus, I'll just ignore the studies that tell me I don't absolutely need to do it.)
Secondly, most people supposedly do it wrong anyway - as in, not eating the right foods in the right amounts. For many runners (don't worry, I'm not naming names), the concept seems to mean "food-loading", thus eating everything in sight. Hey, I don't judge. But while fries, cookies, doughnuts and really creamy pasta dishes are based on carbohydrate sources, the extra fat is unlikely to deposit itself into muscle stores.
Supposedly, the average runner tends to pack in less carbohydrates than would be needed for measurable performance improvements. However, in my book, there is only so much one can eat without running into GI issues (and thus, port-a-potties) or feeling sluggish from excess water weight and calories. So that's where a bit of thinking before food-shoveling comes in.
[For the record, according to the ACSM, female runners should be loading with 8-10g of carbohydrates per kg body weight. Stick with me for a moment here. That's about 3.5-4.5g per pound you weigh -> 520g for a 130lb person -> lots of food, a little over 10 (normal, not Starbucks) bagels worth of carbohydrates.]
In any case, I definitely think there is a psychological element to carbohydrate loading, one that trumps whatever science says about the subject. It's comforting and oh-so-fun. To have a valid excuse, even a mandate to eat lots of carbohydrates...well, that's pretty great. In fact, 26.2 miles worth of awesome.