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.

Source

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?


23 comments:

  1. I've never run a marathon but I, like you, read TONS of articles on "carb-loading" <---- sorry I said it! lol before my half and I found I felt GREAT on race day. I don't think I've ever felt better during a race. I started eating more carbs the week before. I had read not to over do it on the bread and ate lots of veggies, whole grains and foods high in proteins! . I totally did the spaghetti for dinner before the race and I think my body loved it :)

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  2. I haven't done a marathon but I have noticed that when I have a low carb meal the night before my run the next day is really flat and vice versa. Good luck with all the carbs - you must be feeling bloated!

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  3. Good luck! I do the same- start a few days before, although my body is always craving carbs so it doesn't see all that challenging for me, it's kind of fun. Maybe I'm not downing enough of them to get to the 3 months preggo stage. :)
    Good luck this weekend!!

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  4. I never really paid attention to carb loading per se because I always think that I have enough reserves to go through if needed. However, I usually have plenty of carbs the day before because often it happens to be on a Saturday and well, we have time to cook and make french crepes and lasagna and banana bread and all the good stuff that makes you put on the pounds (which are also my favorite carb loading foods). The problem is that once I put on the weight that comes with carb loading, it takes me another 3 months to lose it. For example I put on 4lb before the marathon (on Oct 14) and guess what, I still have them on. That's why I try to avoid it because I can't find a way to do it without putting weight on. And it drives me cray-zeee!! Have a great run in Rocket City!! (nope, I am NOT going to say it, let's not jinx it).

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  5. I don't say carbO-loading either!!

    GREAT post. Thank you! I've never done a marathon..but even for 1/2's , I've never changed my diet or carb-loaded at all. I just ate normally. Mainly because I don't really know HOW to do the whole carb-loading thing. Thank you!

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  6. Huh, I guess I never paid attention to the o in the term... Pretty sure I've never used it that way. I HATE carb-loading. As a beginner, I used to do the night before thing (and hated that stuffed feeling). Now I do a gradual carb-heavy meals in the preceding days... and a light meal the night before.

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  7. Too many carbs and I just feel fu and sluggish...I might go too far though...like for a 12 mile run do I need to carb up extra? Probably not!! I tried carbs loading for my half marathon but them got injured and couldn't run it so I just gained 4 pounds in 1 week instead. Suffice to say I don't have this figured out and use it as an excuse to binge eat bread and spaghetti.

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    1. So many typos, I did not mean to type fu...I meant full lol!

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  8. hahaha...that picture is awesome.
    great tips and while i LOVE me my carbs, i do giggle sometimes when i hear people think they need to literally eat their weight in pasta. :P

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  9. Well I only do half marathons so I start the day before. I basically steer clear of everything I normally eat (whole grains, veggies, fruit, healthy stuff) and eat white rice/pasta/bread etc. I thoroughly enjoy it. I also consider wine a carb in moderation. White bagels are my carb-loading treat of choice but frankly I'll take anything!!!

    Not found any brown rice at all here in Tokyo so I should technically be as fast as Meb!

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  10. I read this same article and was surprised about how much I did not know about carb loading (surprised might be a strong word, it was reinforced that I know nothing). I thought my night before face stuffing of pizza was brilliant. Apparently not. And the amount of food that they recommended the morning of a race seemed like a lot too. What my mini luna bar isn't gonna result in a brilliant race. What? I am excited to see how it works for you! Good luck at your race!!!!!

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  11. Carb-O, carb-O, carb-O. HA. My most hated cool runner term is "taper." Sooooo
    pretentious. I just "cut back" on miles before a big race. Or sometimes I "rest." (Wonder if I would be faster if I tapered?)

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  12. I think they add the o to carb-O because its short for carbOhydrate. As a dietitian, I never call them carbos either, though. ;)

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  13. I cannot wait to hear how the race goes!!!!!!! I will be checking for a little post from you this weekend!!! Go ROCK IT!! Have fun! ANd go for that PR!!!! You are amazing!!!!!

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  14. It's not so much that I dislike adding carbs, pre-race, as I do cutting out all the things I love. After the race, all I want is those forbidden fresh fruit and veggies!!
    I usually start loading up 2 days, prior. The trick, for me, was to find carbs I actually wanted to eat. Bread, rolls, pasta...I can do without. Couscous, oatmeal, potatoes...yum! Bring it on.

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  15. You should check out http://nutritionsuccess.org/blog/. Jackie is running Rocket City this weekend too (she will probably win, actually). She gives a lot of great info. on her blog. I've worked with her and as an elite marathoner who also happens to be a registered dietician, she knows her stuff! Have a great race! And if you happen to meet her, tell her that I said hello!!!

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    1. Whoa, that girl is fast and healthy! I will see if I can find her. It's a smallish race, so my chance of running into her are good.

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  16. I'm excited for you! I hope you have a perfect race!

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  17. I've heard the same thing about eating more carbs 2-3 days before a marathon and not just the day before so that's what I've been doing and I agree with you about feeling huge! Hopefully this strategy will pay off for both of us tomorrow. I'm determined to find you in the morning so we can say hey and take a picture before the race.

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    1. Yes, we'll be there early for packet pick up. I'll look for you too!

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  18. OMG I feel stuffed just from reading this...lol! It does make more sense to carb-load 2-3 days before the big race! Godspeed and enjoy the race!

    http://runningsurvivor.blogspot.com

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  19. I don't carb load because I don't run full mary's! I'm excited for you, though! Can't wait to hear how it goes. And..by the way, that first picture now has me craving pasta!

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  20. Good luck on Sunday! I think I got the right weekend this time!

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