Seeing as how I am racing in the Capitola Half Marathon this Sunday, May 20th, I thought this topic was perfect! Most runners already know that if you are going to be running in a half or full marathon, loading up on extra carbs is a must! Carbohydrates provide energy for your body throughout the 13.1 or 26.2 miles ahead of you and will help you avoid what is known as "the wall." The questions become when should you start loading up, how much, and with what exactly???
When you eat carbohydrates, they are stored in your muscles as glycogen. This is the easiest form of energy for your body. Fat then is converted to energy. Yes this sounds great...but during a race this is NOT the goal as it is more difficult for your body to do and we want the GREATEST level of energy we can get! Glycogen is still needed to convert your fat to energy. Make it easier on your body. Stay energized!
Some of the carbs that you SHOULD be consuming include: tortillas, oatmeal, bread, pancakes, waffles, bagels, or yogurt (go greek!) Fruit is packed with good carbs, but the high fiber can affect you mid race. If you are a fruit fan like me, try bananas that are great for energy, yet lower in fiber.
What to AVOID: foods that are high in fat --> like creamy sauces, cheeses, butter, and oils. High fat foods will only slow you down. Instead, try jam on your toast instead of butter and for your pasta use tomato sauce. And folks, EXTRA protein isn't really necessary.
Now the biggest question...HOW MUCH SHOULD WE EAT??? Well, you're in luck...you can't fill up your glycogen stores with just one meal. Start just 2 or 3 days before your race. Since the week of your long race should be light in the mileage you are running, the stores will continue to build up. For a precise formula, check out endurancecalculator.com where runners can include variables such as age, resting heart rate, predicted finishing time, and more.
Be careful not to eat more calories though runners! Instead, more of your calories should be coming from carbohydrates. And as always...remember to really enjoy these few days of extra carbs! ;-)