Home / Insights / How to carbohydrate load. Why the 24 hours before is ACTUALLY the most IMPORTANT

By E-Perform | Fueling | January 12, 2024

How to carbohydrate load. Why the 24 hours before is ACTUALLY the most IMPORTANT


How to carbohydrate load, carbohydrate loading is the process of filling your body with glucose. The body stores carbohydrates in the liver & muscles. To fill your muscles and liver with glucose ready to use during exercise it takes 24 hours. Therefore you need to consume 6-8g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass on the day before and the day of a match or big event.


In this article we will walk you through everything you need to know about how to carbohydrate load , how to calculate how many carbohydrates to take on using our carb loading calculator, and we even finish with a perfect ‘day before the big event‘ PLAN, to show you EXACTLY what to do and HOW to do it!


How to carbohydrate load for football



At E-Perform, we recognise that It’s not just the meal before a game that is important to fuel performance.


In reality the whole 24 hours before a game are crucial to glycogen loading and how to carbohydrate load and your subsequent energy through the game or big event.


In this article we will walk you through how to carbohydrate load and all your burning questions such as;

  • When to carb load
  • How many carbs should a football player eat
  • How many calories should a footballer eat
  • Why do footballers need carbohydrates
  • Use our free carb loading calculator
  • See our FREE day before the big event plan



…So let’s get started

Why do footballers need carbohydrates?



We know from a huge body of research, players who start a match with low muscle glycogen stores (low fuel levels), will cover less distance at high speed and have less involvements, particularly in the second half, compared to players that have fuelled correctly.


As demonstrated in this scientific research on carb loading, It becomes really clear that carbohydrates can have a really positive affect on football performance. Running more, higher levels of performance and lower levels of perceived fatigue are all attributed to fueling properly before a big event.


Hopefully it is becoming clear that making sure you have adequate amounts of carbohydrates for football is vital to maximising your performance on the pitch.


We will now dig into how to carbohydrate load, how much & what to eat.

When to carb load



Thanks to lots of academic research and evidence, when to carb load is very clear. It is known that it takes the liver 24 hours to convert carbohydrates into glucose and then for the body to absorb them into the muscle and liver ready to be used during exercise.


Therefore as an athlete it is important to start considering your carbohydrate strategy and when to carb load at least 24 hours before your big event. We recommend planning out your meals and when you will be eating them throughout the day before your big match.

Carb loading for football

By saying carb loading for football is to say, the meals you eat on the day(s) before a match should be high in carbohydrates. This is so that your body can store energy in your liver and muscles to be used during match play. 


Aim to consume 6-8g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass on the day before and day of a match.



Now we understand why carb loading is important for football, let’s look into how much you need to eat to be at your peak performance.

How many carbs should a football player eat

To help you know exactly how many calories a footballer should eat and how to carb load for football, we have put together the below calculator infographic to ensure you are consuming exactly what you need relative to your individual body weight.

Please use the infographic below to get the best understand of how to carbohydrate load for football

How to carb load for football: The number of grams required per kg of body weight
How to carb load for football: The number of grams required per kg of body weight


In this infographic you can see how many carbs should a footballer eat is between 6-8g per kg of body weight. Therefore if you are 70kg for example this would equal 420g to 560g the day before a match to adequately carbohydrate load.


How to carbohydrate load for football 

At this point, you are probably asking yourself, “how can I eat so much in one day!?” And “what meals can I make to help me reach this goal?”

We will explain all now…

With a lot of extra fuel to consume, we recommend including carbohydrates with every meal and snack to spread your intake throughout the day. 

This will make it much easier for you to meet your carbohydrate goal without shovelling in ten bowls of pasta for dinner the night before a game. 

Aim to eat carbohydrates with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and with snacks interspersed between these main meals. 

Using our professional knowledge and experience, we have put together an example day of eating for the professional footballer the day before a match (matchday -1):

A timeline to show how to carbohydrate load before a big event or game
A timeline to show how to carbohydrate load before a big event or game. Carbohydrate loading pdf


Frequently answered question about carbohydrates!


Why do footballers need carbohydrates?

Footballers need carbohydrates to act as energy throughout the game.

Football is a demanding sport with players often reaching distances of 10-12 kilometers in distance and 600 – 1200 meters of high speed running within that time.


Football is therefore more like an endurance event than a sprint event, requiring lots of energy.

To get energy, the body breaks down carbohydrates in glycogen and glucose to use to help the working muscles continue to function at maximum performance.


In order to ensure we have enough energy through the game carbohydrate loading in sports and football is really important to be able to thrive during the whole game.


Carbo loading principles

The video below gives a nice quick explanation of what and how to carbo load.

What and how to carbohydrate load



Conclusion: How to carbohydrate load


In summary; How to carbohydrate load you should;

  • Make a carbohydrate target! Save and use our calculator in this article
  • Aim to consume 6-8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight
  • Begin carbohydrate loading at least 24 hours before an event
  • To hit your target consume carbohydrates with every meal (snacks and mains)
  • Continue to fuel right up to the game
  • At the start of the 24 hour period consume main complex carbohydrates
  • As you get close to the event consume more simple carbohydrates.



We hope you have enjoyed this article and now understand carbohydrate loading benefits.


We hope you can use it in your next big game to help your performance.


This article is an extension from our most recent blog on the footballer’s diet – if you haven’t already, take a read – we dive into everything about the a footballers diet.

Download your FREE 7-day meal plan to maximise your football performance RIGHT NOW!

We have put together an example of the type of meals professional players we work with might consume in a typical match week – Download it here.

Lacking inspiration with what to cook? We’ve got you covered with our FREE 7 best football recipes. Pair this with the 7-day meal plan to start planning to make a proper impact and improve your nutrition.

We hope you find value in this article if you do help US and YOUR TEAM MATES by sharing with them, liking and commenting on these posts – it all helps us so much and means we can keep delivering more and more valuable football content for you!

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