Carbohydrate loading the night before- myth or fact?

February 12, 2018

What you put in your body in the weeks and hours leading up to your 10K will have a significant impact on how well you perform.

"Nutrition is really important because that's what fuels you," says Sam Hua, holistic health coach and CEO of Happy Food. "Food goes into our bodies, gets digested in our guts and then it gets absorbed into our blood streams." This then fuels your cells and organs, which is critical for your performance.





With the right nutritional balance, you'll toe the starting line feeling strong and ready. Here's what you need to know to prep for your 10K.


Eat Clean

If you don't eat clean already, it's a good idea to make that your focus in the weeks leading up to the race. "I jokingly say to people, well if you eat crap you're going to feel like crap. When you do a 10K you want to be feeling stellar because it's not a walk in the park," Hua says.

This means focusing on eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. "We get nutrients and minerals from whole foods and those are turned into energy [to be] used on race day," Hua says. If you load your body with junk, it will be too busy "detoxing and is depleted of the nutrients it needs to thrive." This leads to faster burnout and difficulties completing the race.

If you're not sure where to start, try this clean meal: quinoa with broccoli, olive oil and chicken or brown rice, and black beans with tofu, asparagus and kale are great, clean training meals. 


What to Eat The Night Before Your 10K

What you put in your body the night before a race can significantly affect your performance. If you eat something that doesn't agree with you, the results could be bloating and diarrhea. The key is balance and consistency.

Hua says to avoid making any drastic changes to your diet the night before a big race. Focus on what your body is used to for the best results. When it comes to the two go-tos for pre-race fuel (pasta and water), however, focus on moderation.


Don't Eat Too Much Pasta

 It's the classic pre-race dinner, right? Unfortunately it can be too much for your body before the race. "The mistake I see is that people end up carbo-loading and then they overeat, which can make them feel sluggish and bloated, and they crash," Hua says.

However, carbs are still beneficial. Carbohydrates increase glycogen, an important resource that our muscles use for energy, so enjoy in moderation. When building your plate, Hua suggests that one half to one third of it be filled with complex carbs, one third should be protein and the rest vegetables. "If your system is used to lots of vegetables, then feel free to eat your usual amounts," she says.



Don't Overdo Your Water Intake




An overabundance of water can be futile as well. While hydration is a critical component of your performance, too much of it can lead to cramping, bloating and electrolyte dilution.

Check your fluid intake in the weeks leading up the race to gauge how much you should drink the day and night before. "A good way to tell if you are adequately hydrated is to check your urine. If you frequently urinate large volumes that are light in color, you're probably drinking enough," says Peggy Pletcher, R.D., personal trainer and diabetes educator. If the opposite is true (infrequent, darker colored urine) increase your water intake. 



The Pre-Race Plate

While you should focus on eating as you normally do, it's important to get a few extra carbs the night before. Hua recommends filling one  half of your plate with complex carbs, such as pasta, brown rice or grains. Complete your dish, "with protein and vegetables—not overloading on the vegetables because for some people you can feel that bloated feeling, which can interrupt your race performance."




Morning of the Race

For Hua, breakfast on the day of the race is non-negotiable. "You have to eat," she says. "It's so crucial because halfway through the race when you're hungry or losing your energy, there's no food to grab."

The best race-day breakfast is going to be one you've been successful with before. Try a few sunrise runs if you're not a morning runner, testing various food and water combinations before each one. This will give you an idea of what works for your body when race day rolls around.

In general, your pre-race meal should consist of complex carbs, which will provide optimal fuel for your body to burn. Don't forget a little bit of protein to stay full longer, and plan to eat 60 to 90 minutes before the race. Some winning breakfast combos include:

- Bagel and peanut butter
- Oatmeal and banana
- Whole grain toast and almond butter
- Granola and fruit


Click here to find a trainer who can personally help you maximize your nutrition and health for your next run. 



Jessica Sanders

Jessica Sanders is the former online editor for After many years of camping and hiking in the Northeast, she's exploring what the West has to offer and sharing all of her knowledge with you. She's a s'mores master, campsite connoisseur, writer, runner and lover of all things outdoors. 

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