Carb loading is a popular past time in the days leading up to a race. The idea is to make sure the body’s glycogen stores are fully loaded up so that you go to the starting line with a full gas tank.
The prevailing advice is that before an athletic event lasting more than 1.5 hours you will improve your performance by eating extra carbohydrates during the day or so before the event. I’ve had good results with just focusing on eating a few extra carbs with my meals the day before a race. Because I do a lot of racing at Disney, those carbs may or may not come in the form of Cupcakes.
One related thing I’ve had some difficulty with is refueling after a race or long run. Because I’m trying to lose weight and eat clean I give myself a pass to eat a more simple carbs before a long run or race but can’t seem to allow myself to do the same afterwards. I think I’m afraid that if I don’t get right back on track then I’ll go totally off track for weeks.
The problem is that refueling after a race is really important and not doing it properly has caused several problems for me. Not properly refueling after the Tink 10k and before the Tink Half contributed to a pretty rough race for me. And while I had a great 12 mile training run last weekend and I fueled before the race well, I did a terrible job of refueling and paid for it the next couple of days.
I was so focused on keeping my eating clean that I just didn’t eat enough in the meals after my long run Sunday and I didn’t include enough carbs to let my body really recover. I ended up feeling very unwell for the next two days until I broke down and ate a bunch of junk food on Tuesday. I did end up feeling fine, but unfortunately I ended up way overshooting the mark and have over eaten since then. Sigh. It’s a fine balance and I don’t have it quite right just yet.
The science of refueling says that you should get a protein and carb mixed snack within 30-60 minutes of finishing a race/long run to help your body switch from breakdown mode to recovery mode. Chocolate milk, peanut-butter toast, or a bagel with cream cheese are all good recovery foods. Rehydrating is also very important to help with recovery. Then, your next regular meal should be designed with recovery in mind with a mix of protein, fats and plenty of carbs. A final carb/protein snack a few hours later will top you off and leave you ready for your next race or workout.
With the new race challenge series that are being offered by runDisney, refueling is even more important. My plan for the Glass Slipper Challenge is to carb-load (eat a couple of cupcakes and some rice/pasta based meals) before the 10k and to make sure to focus on carbs and protein again after the 10k and before the Half. I’m really hoping that this focus on fueling for recovery will help me with my energy levels for the Half.
The biggest tips for the carb-loading and recovery period are:
- Don’t over-do it, if you stuff yourself you’ll regret it.
- Avoid foods that may cause you stomach distress:
- Rich foods
- Spicy foods
- Fatty foods
- Iffy foods – things that are more likely to give you food poisoning in your experience
- Stick with what you know, this isn’t the time to try new things
Do you struggle with the right mix of refueling after a race or long run? What works for you?