Carb Loading: Entering Final Race Prep!
Ok, it’s finally here…the race is less than 48 hours away! I’ve run plenty of races at this point, and my nerves haven’t been much of a factor. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit nervous. Luckily, I’m equally excited and ready to dive in 🙂 Now, I’ve always read plenty of anecdotal commentary on the importance of carb-loading before a big race, but I hadn’t looked into it nearly as much. Once I started doing some reading, I found that it was actually much easier than I thought, and at the same time all the more important!
In order to effectively carb load, the old standby has always been pasta. I can’t tell you how many races include a pasta dinner the night before. This is certainly a great first step, but you can do much more for your body. Ideally, it seems as though there is a fair amount of agreement on the value of beginning to carb load a full three days before your race, in order to give your body adequate time to increase its glycogen stores. In that time frame, your body will begin to store more glycogen because you are running much less (the beautiful taper!) and thus not using as much.
Advice varies on the amount of carbs you should be consuming, but a recent Runner’s World article suggested 4 grams of carbs for every pound of body weight (i.e. I should be eating 4 x 160 = 640 grams of carbs, which equals around 2560 calories). Although I love pasta, I don’t know that consuming 2500 calories of pasta is my best bet. Luckily, there is a much wider variety of foods to consume when upping your carb intake.
Running Times has a great article, with a full list of available foods to consider:
Starches: bread, pasta, rice, cereal, bagel, oatmeal, pancake, English muffin, tortilla, couscous, low-fat muffin, gnocchi, polenta and quinoa
Starchy vegetables: potatoes, peas, pumpkin, squash, beans and lentils
Fruit: bananas, apples, peaches, pears, pineapple, oranges, cherries, mango, kiwi, any form of dried fruit, canned fruit
Dairy: flavored low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt
Snacks: pretzels, animal crackers, Fig Newtons, low-fat granola bar, low-fat crackers, baked chips, and graham crackers
Beverages: flavored low-fat milk, juice, sports drink, Boost or Ensure, low-fat smoothie
Sports Bars/Energy Bars: PowerBar Performance Bar, Clif Bar, Honey Stinger Bar
(Some sports bars are geared toward high protein, not high carb. These are not the bars to choose when carb loading.)
Extras: honey, fruit preserves or jam and maple syrup
In addition to consuming the correct amount of carbs in order to get your glycogen stores up, it’s also important to remember not to over-do it on the fiber, lest you find yourself making frequent stops at the porta-potty! It’s also a good idea to eat smaller meals at more frequent intervals. You’ll feel less heavy and sluggish, and be able to draw on the energy you are consuming more easily.
Most of all, trust your body. I’m going to try my best to remember that more than anything. I’ve trained hard over the past 4 months, I know what it feels like to hit longer distances, and I can tell when something is or isn’t sitting well in my stomach. I know I’m not going to be breaking any course records, and that as long as I finish, I’ll be achieving a PR (the beauty of running a distance for the first time), so I’m going to go out there and have fun!
If you are interested in digging a bit deeper into pace and nutrition calculations, I’d highly recommend the endurance calculator as well.