Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Tipster: Is Carb-Loading Necessary Before a Race?

Hello friends! Today's workout consisted of 40 minutes on the elliptical and 15 minutes of running. I felt like I ran a marathon as my breathless body gasped for air, but otherwise I felt fantastic!

Anyway, since marathon season has just begun, I'm guessing a lot of you have already signed up for a race or have already ran in a race. Today I want to talk about carb-loading for a marathon. Is it truly necessary? What are the do's and don'ts of carb-loading? Some controversy still exists on this topic. For example, according to Competitor,  researcher Benjamin Rapoport from MIT found that carb-loading is not essential for a race. He suggested that runners run out of glycogen (aka fuel) when they fluctuate their pace too much. He stated that the best way to conserve fuel is by keeping a steady pace throughout the race. Basically, when you "go out too fast" you burn all the glycogen in your body.
Rapoport also found that carb-loading the day before a race is not necessary at all. He argued that the real "carb-loading" should take place the week of taper. He stated that because runners aren't running hard during the week of the race (aka tapering), then they shouldn't be burning the glycogen (fuel) in their muscles.
Rapoport further suggested that carb consumption is only truly needed during the race. He conducted a study where one group of runners started a run without glycogen and ate carbs during the run and the other group started the run with high levels of glycogen and ate carbs throughout the run. He found that both groups performed the same.
I agree with Mr. Rapoport to a certain extent. I think that runners shouldn't go crazy eating a bunch of carbs the day before the race, but I do think that they should start carb-loading the week prior to the race. Also, runners should run less the week before the marathon in order to allow their muscles to rest and to absorb the most amount of glycogen possible.

Things to do the week before the race to have optimal glycogen in your muscles:
-Run less (so you can store the most amount of glycogen in your muscles).
-Consume the same tried-and-true high carb diet that you ate during training (don't try anything new so that you won't upset your stomach).
-Don't fat-load. Consume healthy carbs, not blobs of grease and butter (this can make you feel lethargic and give you indigestion).
-If you feel it's completely necessary to carb-load before a race, start two days before the event. Make sure to time your meals wisely. Perhaps you should eat a really high carb meal for breakfast versus dinner in order to avoid an upset stomach the day of race day.
-You should be 2-3 pounds heavier. This is a really good thing. It means that you have plenty of water and glycogen in your system.
-Be sure to drink lots of fluids, especially water! Dehydration can also contribute to hitting the wall.
-You must also eat protein while carb-loading. While carbs are essential, protein also adds fuel to your muscles.
-The key to carb-loading is to consume about 3-5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. That's about 60% of calories from carbs. Make sure to distribute that between meals.
Do you carb-load before a race?
I'm grateful for the big and squeashy
pillow that my hubs bought me. It
feels great in between my legs and
it adds support to my belly.
Pin It


  1. I definitely carbo-load, from about two days before the race (as well as cutting down on miles). It's a great tip to be smart about carbs... it's easy for me to just down a bunch of high-fat desserts and pastries and think, "It's cool. I'm running a marathon this Sunday," and go nuts!

    1. You definitely should watch out for fatty foods before a race in order to avoid an upset stomach. I usually go crazy with food after the race is over =)~