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Carbohydrate Loading for Race Day

Have you ever thought carb loading means just scarfing down a big bowl of pasta the night before your race? Think again! Carbohydrate loading is a strategy that goes beyond pasta and can help you crush your next marathon. Keep reading to find out how you can fuel up like a pro and avoid "hitting the wall" on race day.

Why Carbohydrates Matter

As a runner, carbohydrates are your body’s go-to fuel source. Stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles, your body quickly converts this glycogen into glucose when you are running. This gives you the energy needed to maintain your pace and keep running strong.

The Importance of Carbohydrate Loading

Want to finish your next half or full marathon feeling strong and set a new personal record (PR)? Proper carbohydrate loading before race day is essential. By fully stocking your glycogen stores, you’ll have the energy reserves to maintain your pace and avoid that dreaded "wall" where every step feels like a struggle.

Beyond the Pasta Dinner: How to Carb Load Properly

Carbohydrate loading is more than just eating a pre-race pasta dinner. To truly maximize your glycogen stores, aim to fill your plate with about 80 percent carbohydrates at every meal and snack for 1 to 3 days before your race. This will ensure you’re fully fueled, giving you the sustained energy you’ll need on race day.  How many days you carb load is dependent on your race distance, running intensity and goals. 

Here's a sample 1-day carb-loading plan to get you started:

Breakfast: 1 bagel with peanut butter, 1 banana, 1 tablespoon honey, and 8 ounces orange juice

AM Snack: 1 cup applesauce

Lunch: Sub sandwich with turkey, spinach, and tomato, 2 servings pretzels, carrots and hummus

PM Snack: 3 medjool dates with peanut butter

Dinner: 2 cups rice, 1 cup sweet potatoes, chicken, coconut curry, 1 piece naan bread

Bedtime Snack: 4 graham cracker sheets

Staying Hydrated

Don’t forget to hydrate! As you load up on carbs, your body retains more fluids, so make sure to drink plenty of water, juice, milk, or carb-electrolyte drinks to stay hydrated.

Race Day Fueling

Mastering your carbohydrate loading plan is essential for peak performance on race day. Equally important is having a proper fueling and hydration plan. Together, these strategies will help you finish strong and avoid "hitting the wall."

This article originally appeared in the The Connection, TCM's weekly e-newsletter. Subscribe here.


(Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for educational purposes only and provides generalized nutrition guidance. For personalized recommendations, please consult your sports dietitian. Individuals who choose to implement nutrition changes agree that Kristy Baumann Nutrition, LLC is not responsible for any injury, damage or loss related to those changes or participation.)


Kristy Baumann, RD, LD, is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in working with runners. She is one of the team of Motion Experts TCM has gathered to help its subscribers and participants get the most out of their running. Have a question for Kristy: [email protected], Instagram: @marathon.nutritionist or website:


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