WHEN SHOULD I START CARB LOADING?
The term ‘carbohydrate loading’ has been used since the 1960’s to refer to a nutritional strategy that maximises muscle glycogen stores prior to an endurance event. Despite what convention might have you believe, muscle glycogen stores aren’t limitless which is why the need for text book ‘carbohydrate loading’ strategies leading into race day isn’t necessary and could even be derailing.
When was the last time you tried consuming 7-12g/kg body weight of carbohydrates for 1 – 4 days without feeling puffy, full and bloated?
Unless carbohydrate loading is a strategy that you’ve tried, tested and proven on yourself, my advice is this:Taper well.
Provided you’ve done this (as per your 12-week training plan) and prioritised carbohydrates in any meals being consumed post training, you run little risk of muscle glycogen stores being depleted on race day.Avoid any risk of glycogen depletion
Allow for an additional serve of whole food carbohydrate in the nights leading up to the race (½ cup for women and 1 cup for men).
For example, have sweet potato chips alongside your roast chicken and vegetables or a serve of rice with your curry.
If you need inspiration, try these Nachos with Sweet Potato Dippers for the perfect race-week dinner.
IS RACE WEEK NUTRITION DIFFERENT FROM MY TRAINING?
Just as ‘nothing new happens on race day’, nothing new happens in race week. This isn’t the week to eliminate entire food groups, skip meals, trial new intermittent fasting strategies or prepare decadent new recipes. Your plate during race week should consist of:
1. Predominantly non-starchy vegetables e.g. kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy, celery etc. The goal is 2 cups.
2. Quality protein e.g. red meat, eggs, fish, chicken or non-GMO organic tempeh. A fist size portion.
3. Nutrient dense fats e.g. avocado, seeds, nuts, avocado oil, extra-virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil. Around 2 – 4 tbsp.
4. Add a serve of carbohydrate from potato, sweet potato, quinoa or rice post training and in your evening meal (as discussed earlier).
It’s important to stay well-hydrated during race week. Don’t risk dehydration leading into the race and avoid playing catch up on race-eve. Do you want to be getting up every hour to pee or sleeping through the night before a race? I know what I’d prefer! Aim for 2 – 3 litres of water per day as part of your race week strategy.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT THE MORNING OF THE RACE?
Hopefully it goes without saying, whatever you choose to do on race day should be what you’ve practiced in training.
If you’re quite comfortable training on empty, then carrying this practice into race day is an option. Many athletes are surprised to hear this, but the benefits of doing so include allowing more time for sleep and less chance of digestive upset.
However, if your start time is later, you’ve never run on an empty stomach and/or you prefer to eat on race day (determined via training and practice because, remember ‘nothing new on race day’), then please eat but stick to a moderate size meal such as one of the pre-training snacks mentioned in this post, a chia pudding or toast with ½ avocado and 1 egg.
Waking up three hours earlier than you need to, in order to eat a huge meal creates not only a logistical nightmare but can set you up for digestive discomfort. Your muscle glycogen stores should be full (provided you’ve refuelled and tapered well – keep reading on this) and only your liver glycogen will have depleted slightly over night, making a large meal at this time unnecessary.