The Carb-loading Experiment

Carbohydrate loading is one of those universal hot topics in the lead up to marathon day.

I’ve never researched proper carb loading before, instead I have always gone with what I’ve seen others do. Planning out the last evening meal loaded with carbs, normally a pile of pasta enjoyed with other athlete friends.

This time is different.  Taking on the high workload of Hansons Marathon Method, I thought that I would explore the best way to carb load to ensure I was ready for race day after all my weeks of hard training.  I read through numerous websites (including Hansons), books and whatever I could get my hands on and the advice was unanimous.  I would be best slowly increasing carbs for the week and then embark on a 3 day carb load of 600g per day.  Easy right? Carbs are delicious.

See food diaries at end of post

Day 1 – Thursday:

I ate my usual breakfast of oats & protein because it is great for post run recovery and it is my favourite meal of the day.  I placed my carb loaded food ideas into MyFitnessPal and realised that this was going to be a lot harder than I first thought.  Keeping fats, protein & fibre down during these days basically has me eating variations of rice, sweet potato, strawberry jam & bananas.

Feeling: Full! A little dizzy and a little stressed from trying to hit the carbs.
Carbs: 542g
Calories: 3,325
Ran: 10km
Weight: 63.3kg

Day 2 – Friday:

My 8km easy run felt amazing.  There were no hunger pangs towards the end of my run and my body felt like it was well fueled.  It also helped that it was taper week and I’d been to see the Chiro to have my hips aligned.

I was feeling uncomfortable from eating so much food.  Due to being gluten intolerant, it isn’t as easy as eating bread and pasta.  I was going to avoid medjool dates due to the fiber, but they are loaded with carbs for little space in my stomach. I’ve never had gastro issues from eating lots of dates, so I’m comfortable adding them in.  Feeling so full limited my coffee consumption, which I was aiming to do in the lead up to race day.
Okay, I’ll be honest.  I had a donut as well and I enjoyed every bite of it.

Feeling: FULL.  Really, really full.
Carbs: 574g
Calories: 3,469
Ran: 8km
Weight: 63.4kg

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Day 3 – Saturday:

Hitting the 600g grams seemed to be easier today.
I have a fantastic Mealami meal bag that I packed with pasta, banana, dates and PB & jam into to stay on track while out and about.  I got lucky on my flight with Qantas Gluten Free meal being packed with high carb bars.
An early pre-race dinner was at Krua Thai, I had ordered home delivery from many times back when I lived in Melbourne, so I knew they were good. I ordered a plain bowl of rice and the best chicken pad thai. I left feeling huge and my tummy was rounded. I can see in photos that the abs have gone a little soft from bloating. The scales hadn’t changed, unfortunately my accommodation didn’t have any to measure on morning.

Feeling: Great!  Bloated from loading in a shorter amount of time than usual to ensure I’d digested by morning.
Carbs: 594g
Calories: 3,479
Ran: 5km
Weight: 63.4kg

Race Day:

Oh what a day!

I got to the starting line feeling fantastic.  My body felt fueled and hydrated, but unfortunately both my piriformis were not feeling great.  While my marathon was difficult due to my returning injury, my nutrition was spot on.  I enjoyed a few lollies that spectators offered and had great timing with my gels, much better than my other 2 marathons.

There was one moment going uphill in the botanical gardens where I cried and wanted to stop, but I got past that and apart from injury – I felt GREAT.  It was a hot day and I wasn’t feeling dehydrated or any heat stroke symptoms and my energy levels were spot on.

Feeling: Post race feeling was very nauseous.  I wanted desserts but found them too sweet after months of staying away from them.  Coffee and chocolate on the other hand were AMAZING.
Carbs: Plenty – together with fat because I enjoyed International Cakes, Qantas Club & Maccas Pulled Pork Loaded Fries!
Calories: No Idea!
Ran: 43km
Weight: 62.9kg

Conclusion: The struggle was being able to eat enough, but once I added the dates it was easier. The mental side was tough with body image issues and feeling like I wasn’t eating nutritious foods.  I felt like everyone could see my carb baby which is ridiculous, because it barely existed.  I am amazed that I didn’t put on any weight with that level of carbs and calories.  I didn’t have scales to weigh myself race morning, but I woke up feeling lean even though I felt heavy the night before.

Going into 70.3 triathlon training, I will stay on higher percentage (60%) carbs and I will be doing the same carb-loading during race week.

Note: This was not done with a nutritionist or dietitian.  I have seen a fantastic dietitian previously who helped me get my snacks in order to ensure that I was eating enough and often enough for endurance training.  I will look to do that again when I start training for the full Ironman in 2020!

 

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