Need a terrific excuse to eat a delicious, healthy, substantive meal? The answer is simple: sign up for a running race. Whether you walk a 5K or run the full 26.2, carb loading can help you power through and feel your best. Let’s take a closer look at a few things to keep in mind when planning your pre-race meals, along with four recipe picks to get you off to terrific start….and finish!
The 411 on Carb Loading
If you’re like most people, when you think about carb loading before a big race, a heaping serving of pasta comes to mind. However, do you know why pasta does the trick? The answer is simple: your body stores carbs like pasta and rice as glycogen — your body’s most accessible and efficient way to convert food into fuel. Without this form of energy, your body can’t sustain its pace meaning it’s just a matter of time before you hit that dreaded “wall.”
While pasta is indeed an effective way to fuel up, it’s not the only way. Other foods like rice, yogurt, tortillas and even oats are recommended by nutritionists when it comes to successful carb loading. Keep in mind that all carbs are not created equally; stick with low-glycemic foods for slower absorption, lowered insulin response, and sustained energy levels.
And while it’s no surprise that high-fat foods like butter, oil, cheese and cream are best in moderation, a few other no-nos may surprise you: an excess of protein can take a long time to digest, while fiber-rich fruit can also lead to mid-race digestive difficulties.
Four Favorite Pre-Run Recipes
We’ve scoured the internet for some system-boosting meals guaranteed to provide your body with plenty of energy while simultaneously satisfying your tastebuds.
No list of carb loading recipes is complete without a pasta dish, and we’ve found the perfect one courtesy of The Guardian. This low glycemic meal is packed with nutrients, including plenty of potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids. Butternut squash, garlic, pancetta and fresh thyme, meanwhile, pack a flavorful punch.
In Triathlete Europe’s roundup of elite athletes’ pre-race meal picks, rice makes a more-than-impressive showing, turning up as the favorite of multiple Ironman champions. This ridiculously simple one-pot meal — also a great choice for vegetarians — takes mere seconds to assemble but will see you through the miles ahead.
Epicurious asks, “Is quinoa the new breakfast of champions?” Many marathon runners agree that it is. Whip up your choice of red, white or black quinoa with an easy infusion of cinnamon, then mix in the accompaniments of your choice, such as nuts, maple syrup, and even a sprinkling of sea salt for an unexpected briny crunch.
Whether you substitute it for a meal in a pinch or enjoy it as a snack any time of the day, this smoothie is light yet packed with easily digestible nutrients. At 500 calories, it packs a wallop, but how can you go wrong with bananas, berries, chia seeds, and Greek yogurt?
One last thing to keep in mind? Meal planning for race day is a marathon, not a sprint. Experts recommend starting your carb load up to three days before the big race. Why? Because you’ll give yourself a valuable jumpstart in the accumulation of glycogen. Whether you’re stocking up on pasta or planning on a smoothie-fest, let Cilantro The Cooks Shop help you stock up on everything you need to bring your pre-race menu to life.