Miami ING Marathon: Tips for Carb Loading
There is so much mythology around the foods that boost performance, I decided to compile a list of the ones that really will help you out on the long road this weekend (along with those to avoid), and some tips on when to eat them.
1. Start carb-loading three days before race day.
Tomorrow is the day to start flipping the ratio of your protein, fat, and carb consumption on its head. The idea is to build up glycogen stores in your blood, which are your body's easiest-to-access energy sources. If you're set to run a 13.1- or 26.2- mile race, you're not going to be able to build up enough of these energy stores in a single meal, which is why it's important to start stockpiling a few days in advance. (Don't start full-on carb-loading any earlier than three days before; some sources say that too-prolonged carb-loading can have adverse effects on your run because it can cause excess water weight gain --- and every pound you gain translates to an additional two seconds per mile on your race time.)
2. Replace proteins and fats with carbs.
Basically, to carb-load properly, you're not just going to add a lot more carbohydrates to your typical diet. You're going to eat almost nothing but carbohydrates for a few days straight. That means about 90 percent of your calories should come from carbs, according to Runner's World Magazine.
3. Choose lower-fiber carbohydrate sources.
Typically, I would never recommend that anyone cut down on his or her fiber intake. But before a marathon or half-marathon, it's a good idea --- especially the day before your race. Again, I've learned the hard way that fiber-loaded superfoods foods like kale may prevent disease and prolong your life, but eating half a bushel before a double-digit-mile-run will destroy you. The energy used by your guts trying to break down high-fiber foods will drain the blood supply your legs, heart, and lungs need to help you have your best run ever. Bananas, sweet potatoes with no skin, pancakes, waffles (I like Van's vegan and gluten-free varieties), lower-fat granola, bagels, and of course pastas are all good choices. During this time, you've even got a free pass to eat non-whole grain bread and pasta varieties.
4. Watch your condiments.
Be sure not to load your bagels, waffles, and pastas with butter, cheese, or other high-fat choices. Fat takes longer to digest and is harder for your body to access and burn, making it an inferior race day fuel as compared to carbohydrates. Choose fruit spreads (try fruit juice-sweetened jams and jellies if you're a white sugar-phobe like me), honey, maple syrup, and tomato sauce for your rice and pasta.
5. Don't eat a ridiculous number of calories.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that carb-loading means eating twice or three times as much as usual. In reality, since you're not running many miles leading up to race day, you don't need to eat all that much to start storing away carbs. You're just going to be eating a much more significant portion of your calories from carbohydrates. According to various sources, including The New York Times and Runner's World Magazine, the proper formula is about three to four grams of carbohydrates for every pound the runner weighs. So a 160-pound runner would eat about 640 grams of carbs, which amounts to 2,560 calories, purely from carbohydrates, per day.