Pasta parties before a big race are a huge part of racing culture as racers prep their bodies for the endurance event that lies ahead. Some people may even look forward to the pasta party as much as race itself – after all, you are supposed to eat all the carbs you can handle. No guilt allowed.
That’s because carbs provide glycogen, the primary source of energy endurance athletes need to get to the finish line. And carb-loading – changing your diet to 70% carbs 2-3 days before your event – has been proven to saturate muscles with glycogen and keep athletes from hitting “the wall” while their body switches energy sources (to fat, which does not burn as efficiently) when they still have miles to go. Carb-loading can also improve race times by several minutes.
However, carb-loading is a tricky task to master, especially for women, whose bodies don’t respond to carb-loading the same way men’s bodies do. It’s not as simple as eating more pasta and doing less exercise. But if it’s done right, it can lead to a much more enjoyable, much less frustrating race as you pass right by “the wall” with the added stamina you get from all that glycogen your muscles are bathed in.
Here are some things you should know for a successful carb-load.