OLD SCHOOL: Carbo load the night before on lots of pasta.
NEW SCHOOL: Eat early, eat healthy, don’t over-eat.
The theory was that by loading up on pasta, you would be forcing glycogen — fuel — into your muscles, and prepping for a great race.  The reality instead was a lot of bloated, uncomfortable runners on race day, with long lines at the porta-johns.
Carbo loading doesn’t really work — certainly not for most people, and if at all, only under certain very specific conditions.  Opt instead to a light meal, supplemented by a light late snack, and a light early breakfast of less than 500 calories.  You will be fueled for the race, and still light on your feet.  Here are some more eating tips:
Eat carb-rich foods.  You should give your body food that it can easily digest (and eliminate) and that it can easily convert into fuel and store.  Carbs fit the bill.  Pasta is a traditional choice, but not the only option; any grain-based food, such as rice, will work well, too.  Vegetables, whether cooked or fresh, are a good choice, but should not be the centerpiece of your pre-race, since they aren’t calorie-dense enough to provide enough fuel for your body (though potatoes and other tubers are closer to meeting those needs), and because they can also cause gastric distress for some runners.
Because you’re eating early, you can also plan to have a moderate amount of protein with your meal, such as lean chicken, fish, or beef.  Protein is harder to digest, though, so if you eat a big thick steak, you run the risk of having it accompany you on the race course.  Eat protein, but eat it moderately.
Avoid foods you haven’t tried before, especially exotic dishes.  This is not the time to try that new Thai restaurant down the street.  You don’t have to eat bland, but don’t be adventurous.  Save that for the dinner afterwards.
So what’s the perfect meal?  You can find that out for yourself through trial and error, but here are some that have worked well for me:
Chicken breast over ziti with tomato sauce, green salad, roll
Broiled fillet of fish over rice, with cooked vegetables.
Lasagna and salad
Turkey with stuffing/mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables
Veggie pizza


About horowitzrun

Jeff is a certified running, cycling, and triathlon coach, and is the author of "My First 100 Marathons" (Skyhorse Press 2008) and "Smart Marathon Training" (Velo Press 2011). An obviously addicted runner, Jeff has run at least one marathon in every state and on 6 continents, including marathons in South Africa, China, Bangkok, and Antarctica. Jeff is available for group, one-on-one, and virtual coaching. Options include: 1. Basic Training Plan. This includes a customized training schedule geared towards a goal race, with a detailed running schedule that would include all distances and target times for each workout, including speedwork, tempo, and endurance sessions. 2. Complete Fitness and Race Plan. This includes the plan listed above, plus the non-running workouts and drills that runners need for better overall fitness and performance. You would get strength & core workouts, as well as run-specific training drills and stretches. 3. Virtual Coaching. This includes all of the above, implemented on a week-by-week basis. We review each week's progress at week's end so that adjustments can be made. The program is tailored to suit you right up to race day. It involves more contact, on a weekly or even daily basis. 4. Full Coaching for athletes in the Washington DC area. All of the above, plus a weekly workout together including speedwork, drills, and strength training. 5. Individual track sessions. One-on-one track-based workouts. Contact Jeff for pricing.
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