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Carb Loading - For the Masses

Ah...the pre-race pasta dinner.

It is an endurance event tradition.

You know the drill. Packet pickup is the evening before a race. Maybe it is at a convention center, and they have a pasta dinner there. Perhaps there are some Italian restaurant coupons in the race bag. Or maybe you already have a dinner location picked out.

Whatever the case, many athletes use the "oh, I'm carb loading" excuse to gorge themselves on any type of carbohydrate the day before a big event.

Carbohydrate loading is the practice of fully replenishing glycogen, or stored carbohydrate, for use during the race. Supersaturation can even occur, where the body stores more than it normally would.

"Big race tomorrow! I'm eating garlic bread, beef stroganoff, GS cookies, and a beer - all guilt free carbs today!"

Most athletes who are targeting an event of 90 or more minutes will likely benefit from carbohydrate loading.

The issue is that darn pre-race pasta dinner!

Take into consideration the taper, during the week or two prior to the event. Volume is reduced. If you are adequately eating, this alone will help top off your glycogen stores. That's perfect if you do it during the days before an event.

Truth

Like the tweet at the top of this page says, the pre-race pasta dinner is most definitely not going to glycogen, as you have likely maximized your storage capabilities by this time.

Where is it going?

Well, your butt, hips, and stomach.

The pasta also will stick around throughout the night and show up the next morning - hopefully before the race starts!

So, what should you eat the night before an event?

During the race, many will benefit from having as little amount of solid food in their GI system as possible. This reduces excess weight and the need for toilet use before/during a run.

Options

Evening:
Ice Cream - Easily digested for most. Contains carbs, protein, and fat. Tastes great.
Fruit & Veggies - High in sugar and nutrients. Mostly water so they hydrate. Before long runs, experiment with high or low fiber meals, to find what works.
Quinoa, Couscous, Orzo, Rice, Sweet Potatoes - Great alternatives to pasta, but don't eat too much.

Morning:
Again, keep it light! You have a few thousand calories of glycogen and many thousand calories of fat on your body. That, along with the calories you will take in while running, will be plenty to fuel you to the finish line.
A simple gel works for many people. Some like a bit more with oatmeal or a bagel.
If you want solid food, Thunderbird or Bearded Brother bars are great.
Again, experiment with your long runs!

You may also like:
Never Taper Again
Real Food Supplementation

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COMMENTS

  • By MJruns

    What worked for me in last training/racing cycle (I plan to do again): I eat the same meal every week on the night before a long run and have particular snacks. I repeat the same meal as a late lunch (before midafternoon) the day before the race, then repeat the snacks but less of them and ending earlier to have my stomach be less full before I go to sleep. Can't eat before a run, but will take a mouthful of gel right at the start.

  • I actually got into the rhythm of eating a bowl of Cheerios before a race. It was simple, light--I didn't necessarily drink the excess milk--and "normal." I never ate gels/bananas (solely bananas as a meal, at least)/granola bars except on race day...why switch it up from my norm? It worked well for me.

  • By Nathan

    Great article! I totally agree with this. I've found that a lighter meal the night before a race or big run is totally the way to go. As you so perfectly said, proper nutrition the week of (and always), plus the taper are much better options to a self induced pasta coma.

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