Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Carb Loading: what?

Ok, so this is all about Carb Loading (CL), let me first say briefly what that means. CL is a change in diet just before a long race, like marathon or triathlon. This means a high intake of carbohydrates in food. This might sound easy but it does have draw back and a little science behind it.

Most 'first time' marathon runners will get advice like stuff as much pasta as you can in the night before the race.. this is not entirely true so be careful of exactly how much you eat - ie, don't over eat! Firstly, there are 2 main methods of CL:

1) the last two days before race day have a high intake of LOW GI foods

2) 5,4 & 3 days before eat only protein rich foods, cutting out carbohydrates and ruducing fat to almost zero. Then 2 & 1 days before race day, eat LOW GI Carb foods in your diet.

Here's a good question - why do we carb load? Muscles store glycogen and use this up over extreme lenghtes of marathon running. when glycogen runs out, we hit what is known as the wall - after than our body starts to burn the next best thing - fat, when this happens you really are in trouble and that is why its important to top up glycogen while you race - ie, Gels.

The second question you might ask; what is LOW GI? Well GI stands for Glycemic Index, and all carbohydrates have a GI.. they are all measured on a scale from 0-100, however, we usually rate them as LOW, MED and HIGH GI.. Got it? So LOW GI foods (like pasta) give your muscles glycogen to store for use later - whereas HIGH GI (like jelly babies) gives you glycogen to burn straight away... link at bottom of page.

That should have covered what carb loading is all about.. there are lists of LOW GI foods on many websites, again, I have a link to one of them at the bottom of this piece. Basically CL goes hand in hand with Tapering (which i covered in my last blog).. So I have some tips that work for me which maybe you want to consider:

1) Don't over eat - eat the same as usual - however, make sure you are getting plenty of LOW GI foods.
2) Avoid protein the day before it does little anyway.
3) Avoid HI GI foods except on the day of the race.
4) Stick to what you know works - don't try new ideas - this will help mentally as well as physically.
5) The day before race day is a TOTAL REST DAY.. make sure you don't have to leave the house.. rest means rest - food should be all bought and ready to eat etc so you don't need to do much - just relax.
6) Avoid eating and drinking things that make you hyper - ie, coffee and chocolate etc.. this only makes you want to do something other than rest!

I'll list my food intake down on my 'day before' day... This might be useful to someone but not only that it keeps me occupied whilst the day passes.


Glycemic Index:

GI List:

Race Gels:

Sunday, 11 April 2010


So yes, I'm tapering - what the hell does that mean?
Before a big race you need your muscles and body to be it tip top shape- its a fact they need proper time to repair because of all the training. So here's me, 2 weeks before the London Marathon and starting to do just that.. here's a little insight.

Up till last week I've been running approximately 50 miles a week in total. Tapering is exactly what is says - you taper down from these miles to virtually nothing.. So this week the plan will be to cover around 25-30 miles. And the final week only about 15 miles probably made up of 3 * 5 mile runs.. none of these will be at 'fast' pace, just a slow easy run. The Marathon is on Sunday 25th and so, Friday and Saturday I will not be running - Friday I'll prepare myself so that Saturday I don't need to leave the house - just be lazy basically.. LOL.. easy??

Tapering allows your body to rest after all the training you have put in - rest for the muscles to repair and any small aches and pains to mend so you are fit and healthy by race day.. Of cou8rse, you have to keep the body motivated and that's why you continue running - if only a small percentage of before.

To non-runners this might seem like bliss and a great idea - however, when you go running as much as 50 miles a week - you need time to fit it all in.. Suddenly this time is free again when you are tapering.. this bothers a few runners and therefore they break the rules and go out for a jog.. this is not a good idea - personally I'll either go to the gym and do some work on my upper body or go for a walk instead as you feel you have achieved something.. :)

In the last few days before race day, tapering goes hand in hand with something called Carb Loading.. you may have heard of this already - however, I will be covering this in a separate blog on another day.. till then - happy running :)