Monday, April 30, 2012

The Great Carb Experiment

I know how to carbo-load before a distance race:  eat a good, carbohydrate-rich meal a couple of nights before and don't go crazy at the night before a race.  Sounds good right?

Well, for what I'm pretty sure is the first time in my life, I'm wrong.  I think I hear an angel crying.

I'm someone who likes to know the numbers behind what I'm eating.  I track everything I eat on SparkPeople for about a week each month, just to see where I am with caloric (and protein/fat/carb) intake.  Of those three macronutrients, I am always on the low side on carbs - my calories aren't low; I just tend to eat more fat and protein than I do carbs. 


Looking back on the last week of meals I tracked, I averaged about 100-125 grams of carbs a day.  So imagine my surprise when I read in Runner's World that the average runner carbohydrate loading for a race should be eating 4 grams of carbs for every pound of body weight.

Let's break out the trusty calculator... four times one hundredmumblemumble.... carry the one.. square root of pi... equals..


Holy crap.  But that's just the day before the race, right?

Uhh, no.  According to the nerds at RW, we should be getting 85-95% of our calories from carbs for 2-3 days before the race.

I was just about to order myself a sheetcake when I read the kicker:  We should NOT be eating significantly more calories than usual, just not getting a lot of of calories from protein and fat.  Goodbye peanut butter....

Another potential bummer - for every gram of stored carbohydrates, our bodies store three extra grams of water.  Great for hydration, not great if you don't like seeing high numbers on the scale... the Runner's World article said get ready to see about four extra el-bees on that little digital bastard.

I've got to be honest - that carb goal seems impossibly high, and I'm really going to have to alter how I eat to even come close to hitting it, but I'm going to try.

I am running the Wisconsin Half Marathon on Saturday, and I'm going to stuff my face with bread on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  I'll keep you posted.  

I'm really curious to hear your thoughts on this:

Do you track your food intake?

Have you ever or would you try to hit a specific carbohydrate goal before a race, or is the traditional pasta dinner good enough for you?


  1. I wear a bodybugg and track online. My diet used to be predominantly carbs, to be honest (not sheet least not most days). I struggle with the protein component.

    For example, my breakfast this morning? 1/2 cup steel cut oats, mixed with a diced apple and a 1/4 raisins. Carb city. I'm eating a hard boiled egg just to balance it a bit.

    I do notice that I "crave" lots of carbs when I'm training distance, I started eating clean, though, so those carbs are in the form of Ezekiel bread, yogurt and fruit, you know all those good things :)

    I also avoid the scale like the plague around a big race/big training run. Water weight = desire to eat a whole pie. I'm pretty sure that's not what the folds at RW mean by carb loading.

  2. I don't really track what I eat anymore. I used to obsessively and only find myself doing it once and a while for the same reason you do...just to see where I am at.

    Before the Oshkosh half, I was up 4lbs the morning of. I knew it was a lot of water weight because my eyes were even swollen. I carboloaded for about 3 days before hand. I ate lots of bread and pasta. The comedy club has soft pretzel bites so those were my friend ;)

    The day of the race, I felt great. I couldn't have asked for better when it comes to my energy. I barely even drank water. Just what was in my hand held.

    One other thing...the pounds came off within a few days. I was so glad to see the numbers going down since this was all so new to me.

  3. I definitely focus on food more when I'm preparing for a race, but not so much about %'s or ratios. For me, it's more about hydrating and just eating well balanced 2-3 days prior to a marathon. My ratio of carbs/fats/etc may be wrong, but I feel like my approach is right.

  4. I track sporadically and when I track I behave. But when I think I'm eating 'well' I don't take in enough carbs. Can't wait to meet you Saturday! :D

  5. I think I am just going to eat pancakes all week. That should do it, right?

  6. That is a damn lot of carbs. I'm interested to see if you feel extra glycogeny or anything this weekend. As you know I track sporadically- if ever. If I ate less, I'm thinking it'd be easier.

  7. So many things...

    1- How in the world did I stop getting updates on your blog? Annoyed.

    2- Woah Nelly. Totally don't know how to carbo load! I'm so glad I read this. I want to try to do things "right" with my next race, so I'm going be paying closer attention.

    3- I was tracking everything at the beginning of the year, but then I became obsessive about it and quit. I hated how I was so concerned with how many calories were in what and if they were screwing up my percentages. I hated caring. That being said, I ate a whole lot less crap when I had to worry about entering it into my iPod. I may have to take this up for the next couple of weeks again until I'm at least done with this dang race.

    4. You're funny. And I've missed reading your posts. Glad I figured things out.


Hearing from you makes me happy! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...