CARBO-LOAD: The Worst Running Advice I’ve Ever Gotten

I really struggled to come up with terrible running advice I’ve received.  I’m pretty sure it’s because I have a natural ability to tune people out.


But seriously, I think every piece of fitness advice I’ve been given is valuable and has added to my routine in some way.  So that being said, I think I’ll tackle a running myth that just won’t seem to die.

Carbo-load before the big race!

While I love carbohydrates as much as the next person, drowning in a bucket of pasta the night before the race is doing you no favors.  Even worse, there are tons of races that encourage this bad behavior with “marathon eve” pasta dinners.

*cough* BOSTON *cough*

The myth of carbo-loading comes from the idea that complex carbohydrates take longer for your body to break down.  Therefore, it results in extra glycogen a.k.a. energy.

From Gear Pro:

By creating a cache of extra glycogen, you’ll be able to go for longer with more energy — at least in theory. But the truth is that loading up on glycogen is only relevant if the race you’re partaking in has a duration longer than 90 minutes. Registered dietitian Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, says that “If you plan to compete for longer than 90 minutes, you want to maximize the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles because poorly fueled muscles are associated with needless fatigue.” But there’s a catch. This timeline is really only relevant if you won’t be able to eat and take on more carbohydrates and burnable sugars while you’re running or participating in your event.

Now, I’m not going to imply that you are going to be puking by mile 2/hating life if you carbo-load.  In fact, the night before I ran the New York marathon, I downed a bowl of Zuppe di Pesce the size of my torso.  And I asked for extra noodles.  Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

It’s just that nowadays there are better options available.  If you’re going over a 90-minute run, your best bet is to pack some energy gels and take them every 45 minutes.  As an added bonus, by breaking down the run in these intervals, it doesn’t seem so awful.

If you’re doing anything under 90 minutes, it should be business as usual.  The human body has more than enough fuel for these workouts, so just stick to “the usual”.



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