Carb-Load the Right Way

OMGOMGOMGOMG. The weekend is finally here. I thought this day would never come! Why is it that 4-day weeks always go by sooooo s-l-o-o-o-o-w? I thought with my taper & carb-load I’ve been doing, the week would go quickly. Or at least not move at a glacial pace. Nope, wrong. I mean, 4-day weeks with Friday off are nice but 4-day weeks with Monday off? Forget about it. I want no part of that. Luckily, next week is a 4-day week for me again. WITH FRIDAY OFF. Hurray! *throws confetti* I’m not sure what I’ll do with my time but I’ll be sure to keep ya updated 😉

A N Y WAY – today I’m going to talk to you all about the importance of carbohydrates for endurance sports & how to properly carb-load. Carbohydrates play such an important role in performance for your sport. Raise your hand if you spend days, weeks, months, training for a sport only to “bonk” or hit-the-wall. *raises both hands* While proper carb-loading won’t make you actually run any faster, it can prevent you from feeling fatigued in the last few miles so you can finish strong. Remember: carbs won’t do the work for you but they will help you reap the benefits of your training.

Okay, let’s get down to the nitty gritty here.

The Science:

So, your body obtains energy from multiple sources: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Glycogen, from carbohydrates, is the most easily accessible source of energy so it’s no brainer that your body uses all of that up first. And when your glycogen stores are filled, your body is happy. So, so happy. That means that it can use up the glycogen stores before turning to fat for energy. Efficiency is key, folks.

So does that mean you should stuff yourself the night before a race? Definitely not. I mean, you can only consume so much at one time right? Right.

How to Eat:

So how do we properly fill our glycogen stores to the brim? Well, since we cannot top-off our glycogen stores with one carb-heavy meal, we need slowly fill our tanks in the week leading up to the event. By consuming more carbohydrates with every meal, you can slowly fill up your glycogen stores without overeating. Think of it like watering a garden: you water your garden for 10 minutes every day so your plants can grow. You know that if you water your garden too much, your plants can drown. Too little and your plants with be thirsty. Your body is kinda like that garden. With proper carb-loading, you contribute a small, but manageable, amount of carbohydrates over the period of a week. You aren’t drowning your muscles in glycogen.


The Food:

I can have a pretty sensitive stomach and while I do like to try new things, the days leading up to a long-distance race is not the time to experiment. I prefer to keep my carb-load foods very plain and basic: oatmeal with raisins and a Greek yogurt, banana with peanut butter, pasta with some chicken or Italian sausage, bagels, an extra half-sandwich, whatever. These foods are tried and true favorites of mine to ensure a happy stomach and a good performance. (disclaimer: food will not make you faster, you do still need to put the work in during your training!)

banana bread muffinSample Meal Plan:

Like I said above, I prefer to keep things simple and boring. This sample plan is by no means an extensive list but it’s something I like to follow. It’s higher in carbohydrates than I typically eat but it’s also easy for me to follow.

  • Breakfast: 1-2 packets of oatmeal (or a bowl of cereal) and a piece of fruit OR a spinach & fruit smoothie
  • Snack(s): Almonds & cheese, Gatorade, 1/2 sandwich (usually pb&j), or some banana bread
  • Lunch: Turkey & cheese sandwich, strawberries & blueberries, Greek yogurt, pretzel thins or popcorn
  • Dinner: some kind of pasta with meat & marinara sauce, steamed vegetables or a pasta bake with the veggies cooked inside or even baked chicken with rice and steamed vegetables

And that’s what I’ve got for you today, folks. I’ve definitely been using these tips for my half tomorrow & will continue to do so in the future!

What are your favorite ways to carb-load?

Do you have any endurance events coming up?