Carb Loading for Tomorrow's Marathon

September 30, 2016



Some of my cousins and I are geared up and ready to conquer the St.George Marathon this weekend! A lot of time and effort has gone into training (although I’m not sure I’ve trained as much as I was hoping to…) and it is finally here- the week of the marathon! From previous marathon experience I recognize the importance of this final week and the dietary changes that need to be made in order to prevent a marathon disaster from occurring this Saturday. Perhaps the most important adjustment I’ve been making this week is with my diet: CARB LOADING.


Carbohydrates are our primary source of fuel. Our body is able to quickly convert carbohydrates into energy. Endurance events are literally IMPOSSIBLE without carbohydrates (in the form of stored glucose called glycogen). In fact, the primary cause of “hitting the wall” (or “bonking” as some people call it) in the marathon is due to depleted glycogen stores all of which can and WILL be avoided this time around for me! When the gun goes off tomorrow morning my muscles will be fully fueled and ready to endure the 26.2.


When to Begin Carb Loading:


Carb loading can begin as early as five days out. Begin by slightly increasing your carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to the endurance event and then during the two days before the race: pound the pasta! It is not unusual to cut back on protein and fat to make sure you aren’t overstuffing yourself with too many calories. I will be aiming for 3.5-5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of my bodyweight per day for the two days prior to the event. And yes, I recognize that is a whole lotta carbs! Again, compensate for the calorie increase by cutting back on the protein and fats.


The strategy:


Bread, pasta, white rice, potatoes, and even refined grains are ideal. Yes, all this high glycemic “junk” food is actually GOOD the two days before a race. You might need to change your healthy mindset that high GI foods are your worst enemy because when it comes to fueling up before such a physically demanding race it’s a-ok. One of the reasons we want simple carbs instead of complex carbs is that we want to avoid fiber like the plague!


The worst thing you could do is eat a big green salad before toeing up to the starting line. After just a few miles in, your digestive tract will unleash its wrath at you and demand a pit stop (and yes, I have learned the hard way on this one, and unlike many people in the race, I actually made it to the bathroom in time). TMI but you get the gist: vno fiber the day before a race! Also important to add, your lunch the day before the race is perhaps the most important meal of your entire marathon training plan! I recommend white pasta (again, DON’T TRY TO BE HEALTHY with whole wheat pasta. Fiber = Plague). Use regular marinara spaghetti sauce. Dinner should not be as big as lunch but again, load it with mostly carbohydrates.


Nothing new on race day! It’s important to eat simple, basic foods- especially the morning of the race. Here is my preferred breakfast routine:

1 Large Banana

1 Handful of Dry Steel Cut Oatmeal

1 tbsp Peanut Butter

80-90% of the race-day meal should be carbohydrates. I typically eat two hours before the race. I wouldn’t recommend eating any closer to the race because your stomach may not be able to fully digest the food in time and I personally like to use the restroom before take off.


Still wondering what carbs to eat those two days before the race? Here are a few of my personal favorite foods to load up on.


  1. Steel cut oatmeal

  2. Pancakes

  3. Canned fruit

  4. Bread (Whole wheat unless it’s the day before the race and white is recommended)

  5. Low-fat yogurt

  6. Whole grain bagel

  7. Sports drink

  8. Couscous

  9. Whole grain bagel (day before: low fiber bagel)

  10. Pretzels

  11. Granola bars

  12. Pita Bread

  13. Lemonade

  14. Animal Crackers (I’m talking about the tan colored ones- not those pink and white coated party ones…haha save those for after the race)

  15. Banana Bread (I literally ate a whole loaf of my mother-in-law’s banana bread the day before running the Phoenix Marathon and I felt like a million bucks that race so… just sayin…)


Final remarks:


Carb-loading has proven to be extremely helpful and so I would absolutely increase your carbohydrate intake the few days before the race. Don’t think that there is a perfect way to do this. You likely already know how your body responds to certain foods. Use that knowledge in making wise carbohydrate selections. As a general guideline, I recommend having 70% of your total calorie intake coming from carbohydrates the day before a race (and about 17% fat and 13% protein). Two days before a race can be more flexible (I shoot for 60% of my calories coming from carbohydrates).


Pasta party tonight!!

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