Friday, October 17, 2014

Carbo Loading Time!

I'm two days away from the Empire State Marathon, and so it's time to start turning my attention to carbo loading. I did some reading and thought I'd share what I found.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I found was an article in the NYTimes that cites a number of studies that claim that a short, intensive carbo loading the day before the race is the best method:
In both studies, carbohydrates eaten at breakfast on race day, during the race itself or on days earlier in the week were relatively unimportant. It was primarily what people ate on the day before the race that mattered.
Okay, so focus on the day beforehand. Which can be a problem, given that I'll be travelling and away from my pantry. So what types of food should I pack or search out?
I often tell people to choose relatively concentrated sources of carbs, like juices, pasta, rice and sweets,” Mr. Wilson [a graduate student at the University of Minnesota who led the study] says. “That way, the volume of food needed isn't so enormous.” In addition, he says, “lower-fiber foods may be good, since that could reduce the potential for stomach distress during the race.” 
Dimity McDowell, writing in Runners World, provides me a detailed list:
"Tortillas, oatmeal, bread, pancakes, waffles, bagels, yogurt, and juice are all easy-to-digest options. Many fruits are high in carbs but are also high in fiber—and too much can cause stomach trouble midrace. "Bananas are a low-fiber choice," says sports nutritionist Ilana Katz, R.D. "And you can peel apples, peaches, and pears to reduce their fiber content." She also gives her clients permission to indulge in white bread and baked potatoes without the skin since both are easily digested.
Ryan suggests steering clear of high-fat foods—like creamy sauces, cheese, butter, and oils—as well as too much protein. Both nutrients fill you up faster than carbs and take longer to digest, she says. Pick jam—not butter—for your toast, tomato sauce in lieu of alfredo sauce on your pasta, and frozen yogurt instead of ice cream for dessert.
Cool - I can work with that. I absolutely love bananas and bagels anyways, so shouldn't be a problem. But how much should I be eating? The NYTimes article states that
...few of the runners in either study actually consumed enough carbohydrates to benefit, even if they thought that they were doing so. In both studies, the minimum effective “dose” of carbohydrates was at least six or seven grams for every kilogram of a person’s body weight, or about a quarter-ounce of carbohydrates for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. By that formula, a 220-pound runner would need to consume at least 25 ounces, or more than 700 grams, of carbohydrates on the day before a marathon to finish faster.
The Runners World article provides guidance along these lines:
At this point, 85 to 95 percent of your calories should come from carbs, says Katz. Ryan recommends eating about four grams of carbs for every pound of body weight (for a 150 pound runner that's 600 grams—or 2,400 calories—of carbs per day). 
What’s interesting is how this affects your weight:
Be prepared to see a number that's at least four pounds more than your usual weight. The extra pounds mean you get a gold star for carbo-loading properly. "With every gram of stored carbohydrate, you store an extra three grams of water," says Katz.
I think I've got enough for a plan now. But i'm curious: what kind of foods you you carbo load on? Let me know in the comments!

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