6 steps to carb-loading success How to eat for peak marathon performance

Shutterstock: Balls of pastaAfter months of training, you might know a few basics about carbohydrates - such as pasta, potatoes and rice are good sources of carbohydrates, and the body turns these carbohydrates into energy. And, of course, you know that running a marathon requires an awful lot of energy.

However. you need to do more than eat a bowl of pasta the night before a race. A variety of different carbohydrate sources, such as pulses (chickpeas, kidney beans), oats and quinoa will ensure you get the best possible energy for your body.

Wholegrain options are important for fibre and are a better source of vitamins. However simpler carbs, such as white flour bread and pasta, biscuits and yoghurt, may be easier to digest around training.

RG Active explain why you need carbohydrates and the best way to load up on it before race day:


Why do you need carbohydrates?

When you eat a bowl of pasta or a potato, the body stores the carbohydrate as glycogen in your muscles. Glycogen is the body’s most readily available energy source so when you start running, your body dips into it to keep you moving.

When that energy source is emptied, your body will essentially be running on fumes. Your muscles will fatigue quickly and you’ll soon find yourself in a lot of pain.

Excess glycogen is stored in the liver and then after that we store it as fat. Therefore it's important we consume carbohydrates in smaller, more regular portions throughout the build-up to the race. 

The best way to avoid this is by a process called “carb-loading”. It’s a tried-and-tested method that everyone, from athletes to amateurs, can use to fuel themselves for race day.

Tips to help you 'carb-load'

Top tips starRG Active recommends the following 6 tips, to help you carb-load properly and get in peak shape to run the marathon:

    • Plan ahead
      3 days before the marathon, start to slowly increase the frequency and amount of carbohydrates.

    • Quality and quantity
      Stay away from the sweet treats and eat good quality carbs such as porridge, pasta, potatoes, rice and wholemeal bread.

    • Don’t pile your plate high
      Doubling your portion size will leave you feeling bloated, uncomfortable and lethargic, try and keep your portions small and listen to your body. It knows when it’s full.

    • Eat little and often
      Separate your day into 6 small meals, all with carbohydrates as the main ingredient.

    • Don’t forget protein
      Your muscles are made of protein so it’s important to have plenty of that too. Meats such as chicken, turkey and beef all have a high protein composition. Vegetarians may opt for fish, eggs, and beans and lentils to increase their intake.

    • Snack wisely
      If the logistics of preparing 6 small meals are too much, you could include energy bars, nuts, rice cakes and fruit as great alternatives.

Pasta party

This is the perfect time to get your friends and family together for a big pasta party so they can carb load in solidarity with you!

You can even turn it into a fundraiser so they can help you raise your sponsorship total.

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