By: Dan Arnett
Head Coach – Endurance Concepts
If you’ve ever tried to get a reservation at a pasta place the night before a large race you know that it’s a task that may rival the race itself. Why is this? Do athletes all of a sudden get a sudden urge for Olive Garden at 7 or 8 pm the night before an event? Not really, they have bought into the concept of carbo-loading. Simply put, you eat a lot of carbohydrates (generally pasta & bread) before a race and that tops off your fuel tank for the race.
The concept of carbo-loading before is not a foreign one to pretty much anyone that has done any sort of an endurance event. But there are a couple of misconceptions that I want to address. The first is that carbohydrate loading is only recommended and is only beneficial if you participate in endurance events that are longer than about 1.5 hours. Your body, at any one time, has enough fuel to support a high level of activity for ~2 hrs. So if you have that 5K tomorrow, you will not reap the benefits of carb loading like the person who has an ironman the next day.
The second misconception is when you should carb load. Now try to find a find a table at Carrabba’s two nights before the race. You will be able to walk in and pick the table you want. Who will you see there eating? The smart ones that know it’s proper to carb load two nights before not the night before the big race. Your body takes awhile to process the carbs you are eating and fully utilize them. The last thing you want is to show up to the start line with a belly full of half digested pasta. So what should you eat the night before the race? Eat a normal meal, pasta or not, as early as you can. The last thing you want is to be eating at 8-9 at night with an early wake up call the next morning. Get that dinner reservation for 4 or 5 and be back watching reruns of Sanford & Son ready to tear up the race the next day.
The last thing you want to do is stuff yourself full of food in an attempt to carb load. Simply put you just pay attention to what you are eating and it should mainly be those that contain carbohydrate. And while you are carb loading, don’t forget to drink as well. Proper hydration will not only allow you to fully digest your meal, but it will help get your body ready for the PR you are going to set.
So in summary:
* Only Carbohydrate load if your race will last more than 90 minutes.
* Carb load 2 nights before the race
* Eat a sensible early dinner the night before the race
Don’t forget that you can also ingest a drink that is rich in carbohydrates. Think Gatorade or something to that effect.