December 6, 2012

How to eat before your marathon

Let's talk about carbs. This is my second day of loading up on them, and I feel like I'm going to pop. The only times I've ever felt grossed out by food were during pregnancies, viruses, and really long runs. But sitting on my couch and eating carbs all day, that sounds like a slice of celestialness. Right? Wrong. Instead, it's a slice of I-don't-even-have-enough-time-to-shove-all-this-in-my-piehole-ness.


I also want to get something else out of the way -- I refuse ever use the term "carbo-loading." I would never say, "This fruit shake has lots of carbos." So then why would I say carbo-loading? Why the extra letter and syllable? Maybe it's more scientific to say that (I don't know -- is it???), but I refuse to ever say it. The reason I mention it is because this Runner's World article, that I've been using as my carb-loading handbook all week, uses the term.

After a few conversations with some of my runner friends and reading this article, I realized that I've been doing this carb-loading thing all wrong. I just thought you had to eat some extra rice the night before your race and call it good. I feel like a kid in a wow-you-really-didn't-know-that shop. So much information is out there, and, much like with the almost 500 grams of carbs I needed to ingest today, you have to work hard to fit it all in.

So here are the basics from the Runner's World article:

1. Two to three days before your marathon, start carb-loading. Your muscles can't fill up with glycogen from just one meal.

2. 85-95% of calories should be from carbs. Or you can calculate it by giving yourself 4g of carbs for every pound you weigh. So someone weighing 130 lbs would need 520g of carbs per day.

3. Because you are tapering and not using the carbs for energy to run, they will store in your muscles.

4. It's not unusual to gain weight during this period. For every gram of carbs stored, your body stores and extra three grams of water.

5. The day before your race, maintain your 85-95% ratio, but have a small carb-based meal for dinner. Try eating dinner earlier to give the food plenty of time to digest.

6. Here are some high-carb, low-fiber foods that will work for loading: bagels, jam, juice, yogurt, potatoes, chocolate milk, pasta, bananas, tortillas, bread, oatmeal, pancakes.

So we'll see if all this makes a difference for me come race day. Right now I just feel three months pregnant.

How early do you start carb-loading?

What's your favorite carb-heavy food? 

What other pre-race eating rules have you learned?