by Gina Shell
Runners need carbs. Pasta always has been known as the pre-race feast for runners, especially marathoners, to carbo load. Most marathons offer a pre-race spaghetti dinner the night before. Local restaurants in a “marathon city” will also offer night before pasta specials to runners.
Carbo loading should not stop with the pasta dinner. It should continue on to the starting line to ensure maximum pre-race nutrition. Power and endurance are known to increase when an athlete eats before exercise. The athlete can maintain a higher output for a longer period of time before fatigue sets in when more energy is stored.
Some studies have shown improved performance from eating four hours before racing. There has been clear evidence that if you consume carbohydrate three to four hours before a marathon, you will enhance your performance. A great breakfast carbo load is pancakes or toast and orange juice. A liquid meal might work for a race that starts early in the morning. However, I suggest trying your pre-race meals prior to a training run. You don’t want to try a new diet on race day. It might not go as planned. Practicing a pre-race meal during training can let you know for sure what works and what won’t work for you on race day.
Some runners opt to skip breakfast, especially if it means an extra hour or two of sleep before the race. Personally, I never ate before any race. I would have some juice and water, but never anything solid whether it was a 5k or a marathon. But that was me personally; you might want or need to eat. Regardless, you must be flexible enough to go with the flow. Perhaps what you would normally eat isn’t available or the wait is too long. Always have a backup plan if you are accustomed to eating breakfast.
The majority of runners always believed that eating as close to three hours before a race is sufficient time to digest your meal. Again, practice on training runs, and see what works best for you! Regardless, we know from the research that loading carbs improves performance. So,load up!