Learn how you should fuel up before your next big race.
There’s a reason so many marathons and halfs offer a pre-race pasta dinner the night before: A healthy store of carbohydrates is one key component to fuelling your best performance.
Here’s how it works: After you consume carbs, like a plate of spaghetti, most of them are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen—your body’s most easily accessible form
of energy, explains Monique Ryan, R.D., author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. When you deplete your glycogen stores, that’s when you “hit the wall” and start feeling symptoms such as sudden fatigue, a loss of energy, or even muscle cramps, mental confusion, or GI distress. Yep, it’s as rough as it sounds and can put your race goals in serious jeopardy.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure you fill up your energy tank before heading into a race. You do that by “carb-loading,” or increasing your intake of carbohydrate-rich foods and decreasing protein and fat leading up to the big day. “Proper carb-loading—or filling your muscles to the brim with glycogen—won’t make you faster, but it will allow you to run your best and, if you race smartly, avoid the wall,” says Benjamin Rapoport, M.D., Ph.D., who has studied the process. Here’s how to do it the right way.
DO THE MATH
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September - October 2019