It’s time for my favorite part of marathon training–carb loading! Running the hundreds of miles as part of marathon training might just be worth it for carb loading alone. (Just kidding. Maybe.)
Why carb load?
For long distance races, we use our glycogen stores to fuel our running. Without getting into too much biochemistry, glycogen easy-to-access fuel and is stored in the liver and muscles. To avoid hitting the wall, especially those of us who don’t run fast marathons, we need to make sure we’re getting in all of the carbohydrate we can get to fuel our race. Gels, sports drinks, and other on-course carbohydrates will help, but maximizing your glycogen stores will really help you get through the race.
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How to Carb Load
Some people say to start carb loading a week before your race; I tend to start really concentrating on eating a lot of carbs three days before my race. There are different formulas for how much carbohydrate you should eat, all based on grams of carbohydrate per pound of body mass. A general range is 3.5 to 5.5 g carb per pound daily in the few days before the race, with higher carbohydrate consumption the closer you are to race day. This is also one of those rare occasions where it’s okay or even encouraged to eat some refined carbs and sugars, especially in the day or two before the race. Fruits are a fantastic way to get in some healthy carbs, although be wary of getting in too much fiber right before the race, which may cause some GI issues.
It’s not a bad idea to practice carb loading before some of your longer long runs. It will let you try out some fueling options before race day so you can see what does and what doesn’t agree with your stomach.
How Not to Carb Load
A note about the big pre-race pasta feeds: some races have all-you-can-eat pasta dinners the night before a race. Getting in a little extra carbohydrate is great the night before, but eating a huge meal a few hours before a big race is a bad idea–hello GI issues on the race course. If you’ve carb loaded properly in the few days before the race, you won’t need to eat a ton of carbs the night before because your glycogen stores will already be topped off.
How I’m Carb Loading
What I’ve been eating for my carb loading (note: this isn’t everything I’ve eaten, but just an idea of some of my meals and snacks):
Marathoners: how do you carb load?
Any carb loading tips?
What are your favorite carbs to eat?