KP Half Marathon Countdown: TUESDAY – 5 days to go
Carbo-loading and other pre-race nutrition concerns…at least my take on these topics….there are certainly other opinions out there and I do not claim to be a nutritional expert.
A lot of people ask me about carbo-loading. For the half marathon distance (an effort of 1:20-2:00 for most of us), carbo-loading isn’t as vital as for a full marathon. But still, I will answer the question.
The original concept of carbo-loading (by Ahlborg in 1960) involves an exhaustive workout one week before the race and a low-carb (10% carbs) diet for three days (to deplete the body of glycogen) and then a high-carb (90% carbs) diet for three or four days. This is to achieve a effect known as glycogen supercompensation. Nowadays there are other scientific methods of carbo-loading that are not as extreme.
“Traditional” carbo-loading for typical runners is eating pasta the night before a race. This method may not have the same physiological effect as Ahlborg’s method, but at least we all feel we are doing something nutritional to enhance our race performance. And by default, if you are eating pasta, you are not having a steak the night before the race. I think the traditional pasta meal before a race is part of running culture. The Sacred Heart Cathedral cross country team has a pasta dinner when we have team dinners before a meet. I believe there is much value in having a routine and eating something familiar. And if you believe the carbohydrates Saturday night are somehow going to make you run faster on Sunday, who am I to dispute it?
Don’t overeat on Saturday night. Don’t try a new pasta recipe or a new restaurant. Just eat something you like, and that you know agrees with your body (nothing too greasy or that leaves you really really full). And reap the psychological benefits of knowing you have carbo-loaded in your own way.