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Exercise Taper, Carb Loading, and Preparing for an Event/Backcountry Trip.-Part 2

“Eat more pasta.” That’s what most folks’ strategy is when I ask them how they plan to prepare for an upcoming event or big trip in the mountains.

While it’s not a bad strategy per se, it certainly isn’t the best strategy and won’t accomplish what you’re ultimately after- the best performance you can possibly squeeze out.

Tapering our training in preparation for a big event really involves 4-5 key things:

  1. Planning and preparation.

  2. Draining what carbohydrate stores we have.

  3. Resting the muscle (see planning above)

  4. Taking in adequate carbs

  5. Competing

Planning and Preparation

This isn’t an overnight ordeal. It takes time. So, you’ll need to plan to begin this process 7-10 days out from a big trip or event. That’s step one. The reason for this is it allows plenty of time for you to walk through each step of the process prior to the event. Simple enough; right?

Draining the carbohydrate stores

Edit (October 2022): It's now thought that this piece of the process is less important than we once thought. I've chosen to keep it as a part of the article because it's a topic many have questions on.

This is a two-fold process; step one involves depleting our carb stores through carb-depleting exercise and step 2 involves a reduced carb intake. The combination of the two allows our muscles and liver to act like a sponge when it does “see” carbs again. It allows for maximum uptake.

Carb-depleting exercises are typically high in intensity and shorter in duration (think sprints or hill intervals). It can be longer events too, however, so pick your poison.

How much should I cut my carb intake by? The simple answer is less than what you’ve been targeting. Hopefully you’ve been tracking your nutrition to some degree. If that’s the case, any reduction in intake below baseline would help. If you’re a data-drive guy or girl, aim for reducing the intake by 30-50%. Don’t worry. This won’t be forever…

Resting the Muscle in Combination with Increased Carb Intake

Just like the slide emphasizes, the real magic in this happens with BOTH rest of the muscle and increased carbohydrate intake. It’s that combination that allows for the greatest uptake AND most likely scenario for you to do well on event day.

How much should I increase my carbohydrate intake by?

If you have the luxury of having had tracked your nutrition to this point, you’d take it back to baseline at the minimum. You could certainly take it higher for the 2-3 days before an event; however, be aware that stuffing yourself is not needed.

Compete-Game time!

Like most things, confidence precipitates success. The more confident you are in your hunting set up, the more confident you’ll be in your shot when the moment counts. The more confident and familiar you are with your content, the better your speech or presentation will be. And, the more confident you are that you trained, tapered, and loaded right, the more confident you’ll be in your performance when it counts.

Trust the process. Complete the steps. And, rely on all of your work to this point.

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