Carb loading is the term used to describe a popular "ritual" among marathoners that involves eating a meals high in carbohydrates, days before a big race.
The science behind it is that carbohydrates are the main macro-nutrient that fuels our energy during a long distance run. If by “loading up” on carbs before a race, the body should have maximum stores of carbohydrates to be turned into glycogen which will be stored in the muscles and used during our runs to keep supplying us with energy and ultimately give us the ability to run far and fast.
That was a mouthful. But essentially this is the reason behind all of those spaghetti dinners that races hold generally the night before the race.
There are people who argue about whether carbo-loading really helps or not. In a half marathon it can be questionable as studies conflict on whether carbo-loading is really helpful or not. During marathons though it seems to hold fast that carbo-loading is indeed beneficial. So break out the bagels.
Pasta is one of the best foods to eat in terms of carb loading. I bring a tub of cold pasta with me when I am traveling to a marathon since I love it and it is a fast way to get carbs. However if you want to obtain carbs from a healthier source then try apples, whole wheat and whole grain breads, and bananas which are known for their high carbohydrate content.
I would definitely suggest implementing carbo-loading in your that in your pre-race week nutrition. It can definitely make a difference in your performance!
Carbo loading consists of consuming meals that are high in carbohydrates about 5-7 days before a half marathon. The ISSN states that meals should be ~70% carbohydrate in order to optimize glycogen stores in the liver and muscles.
For more information on carbo-loading + a detailed guide on the 5 day and 1 day carboloading plan & everything you need to know about running nutrition check out our Eat Like a Runner Nutrition Course!
It takes some experimenting to figure out how to carbo load and you don’t want to affect your body negatively if you are not used to loading it with carbs. So as a beginner, skip the supercompensating effect and follow these guidelines:
Be sure to download your free 3 page carbo-loading package complete with a high carbohydrate food list, sample menu plan, and a blank carbo-loading menu plan for you!