Carb Loading 101

Prepping for race day? Unsure about which carbs will give you the most energy?

Read on for carb loading tips to make those starches and grains count on the big day:

Research has shown that runners and endurance athletes (those competing for more than 90 minutes) need to consume more carbohydrates than normal in the days leading up to a big race or competition. Carbs are essential in getting your energy stores to their peak level. The more energy you have, the better you will be able to perform. And the more glycogen you have stored allows for you to delay fatigue.

Understanding Glycogen

According to Runner’s World, glycogen is your body’s most easily accessible form of energy. During long runs (like marathons and half-marathons) your body is burning through both fat and glycogen at high levels. However, fat doesn’t burn as rapidly as glycogen and it’s much harder to convert into energy. When you run out of glycogen during a race or if you’re “hitting a wall” your body is slowing down to turn fat into energy. Loading up on your glycogen stores won’t make you a faster runner, but it will certainly help you run your race at your best.

Increasing Carb Intake

Experts suggest depleting glycogen stores leading up to your big race than going super carb-heavy about two days out before your event. This means adding two additional servings of starchy carbs to your meals in the days before your race. For example, a half-cup of cereal, rice, fruit,  plain pasta or a slice of bread are good additions to your meals. At this point protein is less important as repairing muscle takes a backseat to fueling energy with carbs. Whatever carb-saturated foods you decide to eat, be cautious and steer clear of high-fat foods.

The Night Before Your Event

The meal that you prepare the night before your event should be easily digestible. Runner’s World suggests to eat a small meal early in the evening. You want to eat just enough so that you’ll still be hungry when you wake up in the morning. Be sure to avoid heavy condiments and sauces as some of these additions can become acidic in your stomach and cause problems during race day. High-fat foods and sauces are harder for your body to breakdown.

The Morning of Your Event

This is your last chance to carb up! A bowl of oatmeal, bananas or toast can provide you with the fuel you need. Make sure that your pre-race breakfast is something that will sit well in your stomach. Your pre-race breakfast should contain around 150 grams of carbs. I typically have a plain bagel and a sports drink before a big race. It’s recommended to eat two to three hours ahead of your event.

After Carb Loading

It’s normal to notice a slight increase in weight after you’ve been carb loading for a couple of weeks. Don’t be surprised if you see your weight increase by three or four pounds.


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