When To Start Carb Loading For A Marathon?

Preparing to run a marathon is a unique experience. Many runners argue over the right time to start carb loading, what diets should be until that point, what kinds of carbs, and more.

In the end, however, knowing the proper thing to do, the thing that has been proven by science, is one of the most effective ways of improving marathon performance and making sure that you don’t hit the wall 20 miles in.

The Common Knowledge

For many years, a great deal of runners relied on loading up on as many carbohydrates as humanly possible for weeks in advance. In theory, this will keep your muscles full of carbohydrates, also known as glycogen, and they will always be ready for the race to come. The negative side of this is that muscles full of carbohydrates also pack on a great deal of water, which leads to weight gain, which leads to a decrease in performance.

Recent Findings

Recent research has found that carb loading is important, no one will dispute that, but it can be successful when truncated into just a couple of days before the race. Forty-six students took part in a study that judged first time marathon performance in respect to carbohydrates.

The findings of the study showed that runners performed best when they ate carbohydrates on the day of and the day before the race. Previously, runners would ingest large amounts of slow burning carbohydrates to carb load. Now, it is known that concentrated carbohydrate sources on the day of the race is much more important. Pasta, juice, rice, and other low fiber sources are ideal.

The problem with runners comes at about the 20 mile mark. This is when most bodies run out of carbohydrates. Carb loading for weeks and then skipping breakfast does nothing for a runner at this point. This is the start of the “second race” that many marathon runners talk about.

So, loading the day before and eating breakfast is the most important. This is the ideal time for a marathon runner, regardless of your level of experience. To meet your body’s needs, the minimum intake should be 6-7 grams per kilogram of body weight. Increasing that number can help to improve speed, as long as you are taking it in the day of, or before, although stomach problems can also increase with this dose.

The Final Word

Carbohydrates are a complicated topic. The various kinds of carbohydrates, the time to eat them, how much to eat, the usual diet of a runner, the training regimen, and infinite other aspects of the issue have to be taken into account. Not every person can find success with just a quick load of carbohydrates, but every runner can benefit from sticking to carb loading the day before the race.

A healthy diet should meet the needs of your training regimen for the weeks before the race, taking in only enough carbohydrates to repair itself, although the day before it is vital to make this dramatic change to your diet.

This article was written for RunnersGoal.com by James S., a guest author.