Let’s Talk About: Carb-Loading

It’s the night before a big race and you’re cooking up a big pot of pasta with some (meat) sauce and you’ve got cheesy garlic bread in the oven. YOU’RE HOUSE SMELLS AMAZING. And after dinner, you’re stuffed and content. Ready for the race.

Or so you think.

You’re running along, killing the race. Thanking yourself for all the training you did. But then you hit mile 10 and hit the wall and you’re sure you won’t make the next 5K. And if you’re in the middle of a marathon? Good-freakin-luck. Your energy stores are totally depleted. Empty. You’re running on fumes. So you do your best to finish the race and if that means walking or stopping at every water station, so be it.

What can you do to prevent hitting the proverbial wall?

Well, you can carb-load better. Sure, eating a giant bowl of pasta the night before the race is okay… but chances are, after the initial energy spike, it’ll make you feel sluggish. So let’s get on to proper carb-loading.

During your taper week, you should be adding carbohydrates to every. single. one of your meals. Adding carbohydrates to all of your meals, along with the taper, will ensure that your body is properly fueled for your big race. What it comes down to is this: you want to fill your body with carbohydrates over time (the period of a week or so), rather than the night before. Why? When you stuff yourself the night before, you’re limited by your feelings of fullness. You can’t eat past full or you’ll make yourself sick. So now your glycogen stores are only, for example, 50% full, rather than 80-95% full. This can lead to bonking mid-race and nobody wants that.

So with that said, if breakfast is eggs and yogurt, add a packet of oatmeal. Or if breakfast is already carb-heavy (cereal, oatmeal, whatever), supplement with 6oz of a sports drink. For lunch, instead of salad, have a bagel sandwich with a side salad. And supplement with some sports drink. Dinner should be about the same. It’s important to include sports drinks in your race-week diet because they are an easy way to get carbohydrates without having to digest anything. Here’s are some sample meal ideas:

  • Breakfast: 1 oatmeal packet, 2 eggs, banana, Greek yogurt 4-6oz of milk or sports drink, waffles, pancakes
  • Lunch: sandwich (on two pieces of bread/bagel), side salad, 4-6oz of milk or sports drink
  • Dinner: pasta and chicken with a side salad, milk or sports drink
  • Snack: granola bar, sports drink
  • Dessert: frozen yogurt with minimal toppings (fruits OK, candy limited)

Your meals in the days leading up to the race should be simple and easy to digest. Don’t go crazy – if you don’t normally eat tacos and Spanish rice, you probably shouldn’t eat that in the few days before your long run. Keep it simple. I, personally, like to prepare a pasta bake (recipe below!) that I can grab from whenever I’m hungry. Thirsty? Double fist with water and Gatorade. Get those carbs in anyway possible.

How do you carb-load? 

What are your favorite pre-race dishes? 

I love pasta with bolognese and froyo!

Quick & Easy Pasta Bake

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Ingredients:

  • 1lb lean ground Italian seasoned turkey
  • 1 box pasta noodles (macaroni, elbows, mini farfalle, etc work best)
  • 1 jar of favorite pasta sauce
  • 4-5C spinach
  • Italian seasonings
  • 4C shredded Italian cheese mix

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 and PAM spray a baking dish
  • Brown turkey meat and boil pasta
  • Mix everything & 3C cheese in a large bowl
  • Transfer mix to baking dish and top with remaining cheese
  • Bake until cheese is a light brown (approx 15-20 min)
  • Enjoy!
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