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.
Carb-load the right way. 1 of 9
It's worth doing.
Know When To Start 2 of 9
The longer the distance, the earlier you should start your carb-load. A marathoner should switch to 70%-of-calories-from-carbs 2-3 days before her race. A half-marathoner may only need a day of carb-loading.
Know How Long You’ll Be Out There 3 of 9
Is your event going to be over in less than 90 minutes? Then you probably don't need to carb-load.
But carb-loading could be effective in team sports, depending on what sport and what position you play. If you're running around an entire soccer game, carb-loading could increase your stamina.
Know What Carbs Are 4 of 9
Complex carbs include legumes, grains, and starchy veggies. Simple carbs are the sweet kind: fruits, milk, and candy. Get some of both in your carb-load diet.
Know What To Avoid 5 of 9
Too much fiber can lead to gas, diarrhea, and general gastrointestinal distress. Switch to white bread in the days before your big race to avoid any race-day disasters.
Know How To Cram 6 of 9
If you're short on time or fed up with eating so much pasta, jams, jellies, honey, and hard candy can provide a concentrated hit of carbs.
Know How It Will Effect Your Weight 7 of 9
A carb-load done right could lead to gaining as much as 4 pounds in the days before the race. Most of this is water weight stored along with the glycogen and will come off as you use up your glycogen stores. But if you think added weight is going to slow you down more than added glycogen will keep you going, you may want to skip the carb-load.
Know That It’s Different For Women 8 of 9
Women's bodies don't react exactly the same way men's bodies do to a carb-load. In order to get the same benefit, women have to eat significantly more calories than they normally would.
For unknown reasons, carb-loading seems to be more effective in the two weeks before your period and less effective in the two weeks after.
Know How Much To Eat 9 of 9
How many grams of carbs do you need, exactly? Depends on how much you weigh. Shoot for 3.5-5.5 grams of carbs per pound of weight per day. For a 120 pound woman, that's approximately a pound of carbs per day.