Interview: Running Expert Weidlinger On Low Carb & Carboloading
Reducing carbohydrates is pretty in right now. Would you recommend a low carb diet to someone who is training for a marathon?
“I think reducing the intake of carbohydrates while doing endurance sports is not a good idea. People who do a lot of sports also need a lot of energy.”
And what about a low carb diet if you’re aiming to lose weight?
“I don’t consider low or no carb diets a reasonable weight loss tool. If you want to shed a few pounds, make sure your energy balance is negative at the end of the day. This means you have to burn more calories than you take in. And one more tip: If you start working out to replace fat with muscle, keep in mind that muscle mass weighs quite a bit – don’t freak out if you’re not actually losing weight when stepping on the scale at the beginning of your weight loss journey.”
Sleep is vital for performance and recovery. Can one lose weight while sleeping?
“Your muscle mass helps you lose weight even while sleeping. Because muscles need constant energy supply, thereby raising your basal metabolic rate – even when you’re not moving!”
Those who’ve been training for a race have sure heard about filling up on glycogen. Does carboloading really work?
“The importance of filling up on glycogen prior to an extended endurance race is beyond dispute. However, the term carboloading is used excessively nowadays. One thing’s for sure: Athletes need to provide their bodies with energy for a great performance. Besides vitamins, minerals, proteins and fat, endurance athletes need to make sure they get enough carbs.”
Did you try carboloading when you were active as a professional athlete?
“During my times as a professional runner I’ve heard of carboloarding, yes. I’ve always questioned the principles of carboloading. Many people don’t know how this really works. Imagine you’re training for a marathon (for shorter races, there’s no point in even trying carboloading) and already a bit nervous. Due to the intense, hard training, your body needs quick energy supply. But you don’t listen to your body, don’t provide it with the necessary energy, but go run a marathon instead.”
So how does carboloading work in a perfect world?
“Real carboloading requires you to first empty your glycogen stores completely. This means you don’t get to eat any carbs (no bread, no potatoes, no pasta,…) while continuing with your training. That first phase takes 4 to 5 days. This takes a whole lot of willpower. Then, you shift to a diet based almost exclusively on carbohydrates for the following 5 days or so. This way, you can fill and overfill your glycogen stores to provide the body with an abundance of energy for the following competition. Every runner must decide for themselves whether they want to try this or not. I’ve never done this – and I’ve never had a problem with my energy supply during a marathon or an extended training run by simply following a balanced diet.”
Günther Weidlinger is an Olympian turned Certified Sports Manager. He has participated in the Olympic Games 4 times and currently holds 8 Austrian records for the 1500 m to the marathon.