In previous posts, I’ve talked about the two-phased approach to carb loading for a marathon. The first part involves depriving your body of carbohydrate and loading up on healthy fats, enabling your body to make an adaptation to burning fat for fuel. The second part of the process is your good old fashioned carb load, in which you consume healthy amounts of carbohydrate over 2-3 days to load up your muscles with that immediately available rocket fuel, glycogen!
Marathoners can opt to skip fat loading, but they tremendously benefit from a multi-day carb load. If a marathon runner waits until the day before the race to carb load, it’s already too late. It really does take at least a couple days to really load up those stores.
Here’s where a little professional advice really comes in handy: I recommend to my clients that they not aim to eat significantly more in either phase of the protocol, but instead to shift around the proportions on their plates to reflect either high fat or high carb. We’re not trying to put on any extra weight here, so careful portioning is important. *
So just what does the “Fat Load” look like? And how about the carb load? I’m pleased to share this cheat sheet with you:
FAT LOAD – 65% of diet from fat
Begin 10-13 days before your race and continue up until 3 days before the marathon
Enjoy nuts, nut butters and seeds, avoid lots of fruit (except for avocado, of course!)
Avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes and instead non-starchy vegetables like broccoli & zucchini, andleafy greens like lettuce & spinach
If you can tolerate them, you may eat sauces made with cream, quality olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, or butter
Enjoy protein at every meal
Avoid fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies
Avoid white flour and big portions of bread, rice, corn, pasta and grains
Skip the sugar, honey and maple syrup
CARB LOAD – 70% or more of diet from carbs
Begin 3 days before your marathon
Enjoy fruit—including bananas, grapes, fresh dates and dried fruits. Avoid eating lots of nuts
Enjoy lots of starchy vegetables that you tolerate well, like white potatoes and sweet potatoes (avoid eating them in sauces with lots of fat)
Replace part of your protein and fats in part with more starch (bread, pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit)
Avoid buttery, oily or creamy sauces
Enjoy juice or smoothies in small amounts. Drink 100% real juice and avoid sugar-free like the plague. Make your own or buy fresh-made
Enjoy bread, rice, pasta, etc. Bread and pasta made with white flour are acceptable during this period
Enjoy honey and maple syrup
For Marathon and Half Marathon Runners the Day Before Your Race:
Do NOT try anything new!!!
Avoid highly processed food like chips, snack cakes, etc.
Avoid high fiber foods
Try eating a number of carb-rich snacks rather than three large or heavy meals
Your biggest meal is not the night before your race—it’s the night before the night before.
The night before your race, finish your reasonably portioned carb-rich dinner
12 hours before your start to allow for proper digestion.
*A caveat about weight gain during the taper: While we’re aiming not to put on any extra weight during the carb load, if you are carb loading correctly, you may see a couple pounds lost during the fat load and then those pounds back on during the carb load. So what the heck is that about?! Muscle glycogen actually holds on to water, so when you begin the high fat low carb protocol, you will lose some water weight. “Hooray! I’m losing weight!” you may say, and you may even consider living la vida low carb after your race. But hold those horses: You’re only losing water, not fat. Once you begin reintroducing carbohydrates, that glycogen will store water along with it, and those pounds will likely come back.
Still need support in putting together your race week dietary plan? Let's talk: firstname.lastname@example.org