I’m racing on Saturday, and since I’ve already written about tapering, I thought I would write today about carb-loading. I think this is a good topic because it is one more component that will affect race-day performance.
Clyde Wilson works at the Sports Medicine Institute in Palo Alto. SMI has worked with athletes such as Ryan Hall, Noah Ngeny, Magdalena Boulet, Jen Rhines, Meb Keflezighi, Bob Kennedy and Lauren Fleshman. Clyde also lectures at Stanford and UCSF Medical School.
Ryan Hall, in his book Running With Joy: My Daily Journey to the Marathon, pretty much summed up Clyde’s thoughts on carb loading:
“Dr. Clyde taught me that when carbo-loading, my body can store only about 400 extra calories from loading the day before, so there is no point in adding more than this amount to my typical intake. I also learned to spread the load over the two or three days before a race.”
Clyde suggests doubling your carbohydrate intake for one day and spreading it out over six equally-sized meals instead of three.
Hal Higdon generally agrees. In Smart Running: Expert Advice On Training, Motivation, Injury Prevention, Nutrition and Good Health, he says:
“When someone mentions the term “carbo-loading” today, I often feel obligated to explain that it doesn’t work the way science once thought that it did and that they’re better off carbo-loading by adding carbohydrates the last three to four days before the race.”
Magdalena Boulet, a 2:26 marathoner, says she has tried it all. However, this is her current approach:
I don’t put myself through a carb depletion phase because I didn’t like the way I felt during the depletion phase (lethargic, irritable and couldn’t concentrate). I prefer to use the latest method research that suggests you eat your normal diet all the way up until three days before the marathon race (my normal diet includes up to 60% cabs). Right after my last workout before the race, which is always 3 days out from the race, I switch to a higher percent carbohydrate diet (70%) and maintain it until the morning of the race.
Again, just like with anything related to running, you want to try this out prior to your race. Personally, I will say that I have found the approaches outlined above to be effective.
What are your thoughts on carb loading?