Your big race is coming up – will it be lasting more than 90 minutes? If so, your muscles need to be chock-full of fuel to get you to the finish line. What will get you there is glycogen – the principal storage form of carbohydrates that feeds your muscle and gives them energy during a moderate to strenuous effort. Note that standard glycogen levels will deliver the required energy for a shorter race or hour-long effort.
Aim to start “loading” 2 or 3 days before the race. You’ll want to plan what you eat as a big bowl of pasta on the night before will not provide adequate fueling. In fact, your performance will suffer and you may hit the dreaded wall where your brain will tell your muscles that it is time to slow down. Exactly what you don’t want to happen.
So what should you eat? Rely on carbs that are easy to digest as they enter the bloodstream relatively quickly and provide energy. Cereals, pasta, granola bars, white & sweet potatoes, bagels, yogurt, waffles, pancakes, and bread are good options.
Make sure to include some fiber-rich foods to keep bowel movements regular. Furthermore, fruit and protein-rich foods can be eaten in moderation. Opt for low-fiber fruits such as raisins, bananas, and tart cherries. You can peel pears and apples to reduce their fiber content. Balance is key, though: too many carbs and the end result can be constipation; too much fiber, diarrhea, and intestinal problems may await you on race day – a definite no-no.
Consider staying away from high-fat foods such as cheese, oils, and cream-based sauces. If you eat them, you’ll feel fuller faster, but it will take longer for your body to digest them. That being said, your morning toast should have jam on it, not butter. And your pre-race pasta bowl? Top it with a tomato sauce instead of a creamy sauce.
Don’t fret about minimal weight gain, this is a normal occurrence when carb-loading. It shows that your muscles have been fueled. Aim to consume about three to five grams of carbs per pound of body weight.
On race day
Not only is it essential to give your muscles proper nutrition before the race, it is imperative to stay adequately fueled during the race. You’ll want to aim for about 40 g of carbohydrates per hour. Whatever gels, foods, or chews you choose, make sure to have tried them out on long runs beforehand to avoid any tummy issues. Also, remember to take them with water so your system absorbs them quickly.
By loading up on carbs before the race, you can rest easy knowing that you will have sustained energy. Your muscles will thank you and bring you to the oh-so-coveted finish line.