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Taper Time: Is carb depletion before carbo-loading effective?

Verdict: stick to carbo-loading

It’s spring marathon season and many runners are beginning to taper for their spring goal race. The taper is supposed to fill the tank back up after weeks of hard work and strain on the body.


The taper is the time to start fueling for your race, and there are lots of opinions on how to fuel best. Historically, taper time has included carbo-loading. Carbo-loading is the process of slowly increasing consumption of carbohydrate in the days leading up to an endurance competition. There is a re-emerging trend in carbo-loading which is carb depletion. Carb depletion decreases your carbohydrate intake before increasing intake during the carbo-load phase.




But does carb depletion before carbo-loading make the carbo-load more effective? The answer is no. Studies have found that including a carb-depletion phase before you carbo-load often leaves athletes feeling sluggish, tired and irritable. The rational behind the taper and carbo-load is that trained athletes bodies are primed to build energy stores. Therefore, eating more carbohydrates during the rest period shoots more glycogen into the athlete’s muscles. And higher glycogen stores makes for a stronger runner.

The best course of action is to skip the depletion phase and head straight to increasing your carbohydrate consumption. That’s arguably the more fun course of action as well. Foods that are ideal forms of carbohydrate for this phase of your training are low in fibre and fat. Examples of these foods are: jam, honey, bagels, and even candy. A good guideline is to aim for seven to eight grams of carbs per kilogram body weight three days before the race; eight to 10 grams per kilogram two days before and 10 to 12 the day before. So add a bagel to your breakfast or make some pasta for dinner because it’s taper time.