Monday, June 7, 2010

Fuel For Race Day

My half marathon is this Saturday and fueling is on my mind. Carb-loading can be complicated and controversial, but I like to keep it simple. The basic concept is to store up glycogen (an easily-accessed fuel) by increasing carbohydrate/starch intake and decreasing activity. This allows you to have energy as well as hydration because the carbs store water. Here are some carb-loading and nutrition tips from Runner's World magazines and experienced running friends of mine.

  • Carb-load for the week leading up to a marathon, three days leading up to a half marathon. There is a lot of debate over carb-loading for shorter distances. I say, there's no harm in trying it out.
  • Get your carbs from a variety of sources: grains, dairy, fruits & veggies, and legumes. Everybody thinks of pasta, but potatoes are even better on the glycemic index.
  • The last 2-3 days of carb-loading, 70% of your caloric intake should be carbs. Adjust (decrease) fat intake to allow this.
  • Don't worry about gaining water weight while carb-loading because it will help more than it hurts you. Keep drinking that water.
  • Favorite carb-loading foods: bagels (Thomas' whole wheat), apples, granola bars, oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon, carrots, fruit juice, and my personal favorite... french fries.
  • No matter what, eat something for breakfast the day of the race. I like a banana and a bowl of raisin bran cereal. Plus a half of a whole wheat bagel if the race start time is a couple hours away.
  • Rest the day before the race.
  • Along with great food, be sure to get great sleep the week before the race.
I noticed a remarkable difference in my running when I carb-loaded for my marathon. My marathon felt a million times better than my 20-mile training run and I attribute it wholly to how I was fueling my body. I plan to carb-load this week starting Wednesday. Tomorrow I run 5 miles, then just two or three on Thursday. Carb-loading is exciting for me because it is the only time I am really strict with my food. I know it works. It prepares me and gets me excited for the race.

Do you have any experiences with carb-loading? Have you noticed a difference in your workouts as you change your eating habits? What foods have helped or hindered you in your exercising?


Katie said...

Hey Em,

This is great! I really like the down-to-earth, practical, and balance view you have here on carb loading. Lisa and I were just laughing about the "carb loading" specials a few restaurants around here have for those running the Utah Valley Marathon coming up this Saturday. We were laughing at it because it was for an expensive bowl of mac and cheese from Red Robin--dumb stuff like that. I think your advice is much more sound and helpful. Thanks! And...


Lisa Lou said...

I love carbs so much. The few days before race day are an excellent excuse for me to eat all those deeeeelicious carbs. But actually, I've found what helps me most are really clean, fresh foods (salads, fish, clear liquids, fruits and berries and nuts) Not pasta or potatoes. And I LOVE oatmeal and a banana for breakfast the morning of. (Except I have to eat it at least 2.5 hours before, so my body has time to digest a little...I've learned that the hard way.) Also, the day before I drink TONS of water and just sip a little the morning of. Also learned that the hard way when I missed the start because I was waiting for a bathroom!! Whoops!
Good luck!

Kathy Haynie said...

Good luck Emily! Thanks for the good advice - I'm excited to hear about your race!

We'd love to hear from you!

Want to write a guest post for The Skinny? E-mail Katie at kathleenann08 (at) gmail (dot) com.