The DOS and DON’TS of Carbo-Loading Foods

Long-distance runner or not, you’ve likely heard of the act known as ‘carbo-loading’. Increasing carbs while decreasing mileage in the days leading up to race day is a common practice for those of us who hit the marathon pavement. As carbs are an essential fuel source to sustain us on those long runs, increasing our intake of carbohydrate-rich foods (think pasta, rice, cereals) before a race helps us cross that finish line with a smile.

Below are the essential DOS and DON’TS while carbo-loading foods and planning your nutritional intake for a marathon or half-marathon.

  • DO plan ahead. If it is a destination race for you, it’s never too early to make reservations for your pre-race dinner meal. My go-to meal before a race is whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce.
  • DON’T order a meal you haven’t consumed before. Avoid channeling your inner Jamie Oliver by whipping up something new in the kitchen. Regardless of how many races you’ve participated in, your nerves are likely kicked into high-gear prior to race day. Stick with something familiar.
  • DO monitor your nutritional intake 2-3 days leading up to a race. Ensure you are consuming breakfast, lunch, and dinner that fall in-line with the calorie intake that is appropriate for your body.
  • DON’T over-indulge. Carbo-loading doesn’t mean you can eat everything in sight.
  • DO hydrate with familiar beverages. Coconut water (no-pulp) is a favorite of mine. Carry a water bottle with you and drink like it’s going out of style, especially if visiting and exploring a beautiful new city.
  • DON’T drink alcohol in the 2-3 days leading up to the race. Alcohol puts undue stress on your liver – something you don’t need before race day.
  • DO prepare your pre-race breakfast in advance. When running a destination race, I have a banana, oatmeal, and water set on the night table before I fall asleep. Make your race morning as easy as possible.
  • DON’T eat quick-fix foods, such as processed snacks and fast breakfasts. Saturated fat and salt are a sure way to decrease your energy – and they won’t satisfy your hunger in the long-run.

Most of all? DO have fun!

Keep on training – and don’t forget these nutritional DOS and DON’TS.  

Enjoy your pasta, everyone.