I know it's an old-school train of thought, and we've all done it and probably still do it a little bit. But carb loading is a very misunderstood topic and we should probably not let our kids do what we did back in high school. It's ok to eat a few extra carbs to replenish some glycogen stores, but doing it in the sense of what we typically imagine---gorging ourselves on extreme portions of spaghetti and garlic bread---probably isn't a good idea.
1. EATING A BUFFET OF PASTA THE NIGHT BEFORE COMPETITION ISN'T THE WAY TO GO.
For kids and adults, eating a boat load of carbs the night before an event really isn't going to do anything, other than make you feel heavy and uncomfortable the next morning. Pre-game prep is more about what you do for days and weeks leading up to the event, not the day before. Listen to what the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) says, "Good nutrition is training nutrition; it is about the food one eats day in and day out while preparing for competition day. Simply put, the adaptations that take place during training (and the food one eats during this time) are what lead to successful competition-day performance. One's only goal during a pre-competition meal is to not screw things up! (Dr. John Berardi, Foundations of Youth Conditioning)."
2. DON'T CHANGE YOUR EATING PLAN
Before a performance event, you don't want to change up your eating style. This is not the time to test out new things. The goal is actually to keep things the same so your stomach is not paying for it while competing. While intentions are good to get the "right" stuff in your body for a big day, ingesting what you're not used to may not sit well and could potentially hinder your performance. If you think about it, most kids aren't eating properly to begin with anyways. So trying to add the good stuff in an attempt to boost performance and energy right before competition may disturb the gastrointestinal tract and cause stomach cramps and the urge to go number 2! Athletes should stick to what they know won't cause these issues.
In summary, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
- Plan a proper eating plan for weeks leading up to an event.
- Maybe increase your carb intake a little bit during the week of, particularly before, during, and after workouts.
- Eat veggies and fruits at any meal and "other" carbs mostly after exercise.
- The pre-competition meal a few hours before should be a comfortable amount, and simply to provide energy for competition without risking discomfort or fatigue.
- Do not overeat and do not try anything new too close to competition.
It's not about me,
Coach Theo, IYCA YFS1, YSAS, YHSCS, YAAS
References: IYCA, Foundations of Youth Conditioning, Chapter 9.