How to Carbo Load

Two Parts:Practicing Carb LoadingFine Tuning For Race Day

Runners and other endurance athletes need a surfeit of carbohydrates to sustain intense activity for longer than 90 minutes. If you are facing a long race, it’s a good idea to carb load in the days leading up to the event. Approximately 70 percent of your diet should be carbohydrates; however, the type of carbohydrates you eat is important for good race performance.

Part 1
Practicing Carb Loading

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    Schedule a large run. If possible, make this run at least 90 minutes long, or at least two-thirds of your upcoming race, so that you can recreate the same needs that you will have with your upcoming race. Most studies use races of 18 miles (29 km) or more to gauge the effect of carb loading, because this is the point when many racers hit the metaphorical wall.[1]
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    Eat normally, or as you would during hard training in the week before you practice race. You will want to have 50 to 55 percent of your diet from carbohydrates during this time, since your body needs a good combination of fat, carbohydrates and protein to build muscle and increase endurance.[2]
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    Give yourself a few days of slower training and then one final day of no training before your race. It is important not to train too hard and use up the carbohydrates you are storing before race day.
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    Change the way you eat the day before the race. Although studies used to suggest that you should do this for two or three days before the race, new studies of London marathon runners have shown that the day before the race is the only day you need to change your diet to carb loading.
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    Add up your carbohydrates. Generally, there are four calories per gram of carbohydrate. Calculate your carbs by multiplying your body weight by four to get your ideal carbohydrate load.[3]
    • For a 160 lb. runner, this would be 640 grams of carbs or 2,560 calories. If this carb load were 70 percent of your daily diet, then your total calorie intake would be approximately 3,658 calories the day before a race.
    • Scientists also estimate that 700g (2,800 calories) is an optimal average number of carbohydrates, but few runners actually load that many carbs the day before a race.
    • Other sources suggest that you eat 85 to 90 percent carbs on race day. You can experiment to see if this works better for your body.
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    Eat a fairly normal breakfast, with 70 percent carbohydrates the morning of the big training session. Breakfast is important, but carb loading is exclusive to the day before the race.
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    Make mental notes during your race about how you feel. After you race, you should see whether the process worked for you. You can repeat this process several times before a race to fine-tune your eating plan.

Part 2
Fine Tuning For Race Day

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    Go easy on the fiber. Too much fiber can result in an upset stomach during the race. This means you should not rely solely on fruit. Choose fruit that is high in carbohydrates but low on fiber, like bananas or dried fruit.
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    Choose meals with high carbohydrate, but low fat. It is harder for your body to convert fat to energy, so stay away from sauces or meals that are rich, buttery or oily. A sweet, sugary pasta sauce is better than Carbonara or Alfredo.
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    Eat plenty of sugar. Many foods that people are told to stay away from for health are actually ideal for carb loading. These foods include refined wheat, pasta, rice, honey, cookies and even cake.
    • If there is one day to eat sugary, carbohydrate-rich foods, it’s the day before a race.
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    Try some of the following foods to increase your carb load:
    • Bread, bagels or granola. One serving is likely to contain between 40 and 70 g of carbohydrates.
    • 12 oz. of milk. It contains 18 g of carbohydrates.
    • Energy/granola bars. They may contain 30 to 60 g of carbohydrates per bar.
    • Grape juice or other fruit juices. They can contain 50 g of carbohydrates per 8 oz.
    • Low-fat fruit yogurt. It may contain around 40 g of carbs per 8 oz. serving.
    • Brown or white rice. This is a great source of carbohydrate at 67 to 80 g per serving.
    • Baked potatoes. One baked potato has about 69 g of carbs.
    • A chicken burrito with rice and beans. This low-fat, high-fiber meal has about 100 g of carbs.[4]
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    Eat your carbs throughout the day. Don’t overload during dinner. You don’t want to wake up full in the morning.
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    Buy gel packs and energy chews for the race itself. Carb loading isn’t a cure-all. You will need to add to your carbohydrate stores with simple sugars during your race.


  • Remember to hydrate the day before a race and the day of. It will help your body digest and store fuel and prepare you for the stress your body will face.

Things You'll Need

  • Calculator
  • Bread
  • Cookies/cake/sweets
  • Granola
  • Fruit juice
  • Rice
  • Baked potatoes
  • Burrito
  • Pasta
  • Gel packs/energy chews

Article Info

Categories: Personal Fitness