Enjoy your upcoming taper for the Chicago Marathon (or any other Fall marathon) and use this time to follow a pre-planned carbohydrate loading menu. Consuming enough carbohydrates during decreased training and resting can maximize your muscle glycogen stores. That in turn supports your efforts to run at your desired pace for a longer period of time. Along with your race morning meal, and the carbohydrates you consume during the race, muscle glycogen is an essential and important fuel source during the marathon.
Carbohydrate loading can be challenging. You need to make room for plenty of carbohydrates, and keep protein portions modest, and fat intake low as your energy needs also decrease with your taper. Plan ahead and purchase the foods and products that you will need for the taper and race morning a week before your race. Here is an outline of carbo-loading:
When: For a Sunday race, push the carbo-loading on Thursday and Friday. Aim for 3.5 to 4.5 g of carbohydrate for every pound (8-10 g/kg) of body weight. On Saturday, still have plenty of carbs, but don’t get too stuffed so that you feel heavy and full on race morning. Don’t try to get too many last minute carbs in on Saturday night; start eating early that day and go to sleep early.
What: Aim for over 500-600 g (or more if needed) of carbohydrate from rice, pasta, potatoes, corn, peas, bread, bagels, cereal, fresh and dried fruit, fruit juice, vegetables, energy bars, sports drinks, crackers, pretzels, fruited yogurt, and other carbohydrate containing foods on Thursday and Friday.
How: Buy foods ahead and plan. Pack foods for work and for the day you attend the Race Expo so that you can carbo-load with three meals and 2-3 snacks on the three days before the race. Check labels of foods and use an app to track carbohydrate grams.
Remember to also hydrate gently, while not over-hydrating. Check color or your urine to determine that you are hydrated- it should be light like lemonade if you are adequately hydrated.
Sample Carbo-loading plans are available from “Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes,” which is available via E-Book.