We all know that pre-race fueling is an important part of a successful performance on race day, but for marathons, it’s a bit more complex than just stuffing your face with a bowlful of pasta the night before and hoping for the best.
Carbohydrates (when converted to glucose) are the body’s main source of energy, and as I’m learning in my biochemistry class (in painful detail – hooray, nutrition!), is that the muscles can only store small amounts of glycogen (the storage form of glucose). Once they run out of juice, say in an hour or two at most, performance drastically decreases – a.k.a. the dreaded “Wall” is hit. We avoid this by taking in Gatorade and gels during longer runs, which contain sugar and keep us going.
The good news is that we can also help our body get ready for the huge energy expenditure that is the marathon by increasing our carbohydrate consumption during the days (plural!) before the big race. By increasing carbohydrate intake as we taper down our mileage, we can store more energy for the big day. I’m a fan of increasing intake somewhat gradually, because I think it’s less of a shock to the body and we adapt a bit better to the change in routine.
This week, I’ve eaten normal, familiar meals and foods, and starting Wednesday, I increased my carbohydrate intake a bit more by snacking on pretzels and fruit instead of nuts and trail mix, and adding more grains and starchy vegetables to my dinner. I know some folks may choose to eat ONLY carb-heavy foods in the days before the marathon, but we need other nutrients too! I think getting in some quality protein and healthy fats are also key.
Here’s a sampling of today’s eats.
An unpictured pre-run banana, followed by a post-run bowl of Barbara’s Shredded Oats and Spoonfuls with blueberries, almond milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon
Peanut butter and blackberry jam on sprouted whole grain cinnamon raisin bread, a pear, Siggi’s plain Greek yogurt and a Dove dark chocolate square
Pretzels and a few chocolate cat cookies
And some peppermint tea
Dinner was what I like to call, an “energy” salad – quinoa, roasted sweet potato, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, red bell pepper, snap peas, spaghetti squash, goat cheese, grilled salmon and raisins.
Night-time snackage was the usual Greek yogurt, PB & Co. Dark Chocolate dreams and some Peanut Butter Puffins.
Another thing to note – when the body stores more carbs, it also stores more water (hello, bloat!), which is also why I think a gradual increase in intake is beneficial (for me, at least!). Some water weight gain is normal, and I think going into the race with a little bloat is well worth the extra energy we’ll have ‘round mile 23.
I’ll continue this plan through Friday and Saturday, and snack on PB & J, a banana, pretzels and Gatorade the morning of the race. That’s mah plan, and I’m sticking to it!
Wednesday morning I ran an appropriate 6.2 miles, including trip around the marathon finish area. The next time I’ll be there will be Sunday – YEEEKK! This morning Megan and I met up for a cold, rainy spin around the reservoir – our last run together before the big show!
The only run I’ve got left is an easy 2 mile shake-out on Saturday.
HOLY CRAP, it’s here!
The expo opens today, but I’m holding out ‘till tomorrow to get my bib and copious amounts of running gear a few new things.
Question: Do you have any pre-race eating do’s and/or don’ts? Thoughts on carbo-loading?