Carbo Loading Done Right & Pasta Primavera Recipe

Now that I’m only four days out from the marathon I’ve turned my attention to final race day preparations.  Today, this includes two things.  Banishing my sick husband to the guest room (am I a terrible wife?) and starting to carbo load.

I think carbo loading is by far one of the greatest benefits of race week.  I mean, we’re talking all you can eat pasta, pizza, ice cream, right?  WRONG! While this week is fun, there are definite rules behind it. Carbo loading is so simple yet so misunderstood.  Throw in ‘clean’ carbo loading and people really start to freak.  Trust me…..been there, done that.   Below I’m going to explain {my version} of the who, what, when & how of proper carbo loading.


Who should carbo load? Before reading all this information, you should determine if carbo loading is appropriate for you.  If you’re participating in a short event like a 5k or 10k you don’t need to carbo load.  You will not be taxing your muscles enough to tap into the reserve energy that carbo loading builds up.  Think endurance events  15k, 1/2 marathon, marathon, etc.

What is carbo loading? To understand how to properly carbo load you have to first understand the science and benefit behind it.  The main point of carbo loading is to make sure your glycogen stores are full before the big event.  So what exactly is glycogen?  Merriam-Webster defines it as, “a white amorphous tasteless polysaccharide (C6H10O5)x that is the principal form in which glucose is stored in animal tissues and especially muscle and liver tissue”.

Gina defines glycogen as, “the energy stores that fuel your muscles.”

Glycogen is what keeps your muscles moving during endurance events like marathons, triathlons, etc…  It keeps you from hitting the dreaded “wall” where your muscles literally shut down.

When do you carbo load?  You might think that one big pasta meal before the race is sufficient but you would be guilty of the stereotypical carbo load mentality.  Research has shown in order to reach optimal glycogen levels you need to start upping the carb intake 48-72 hours before the race. Yep, 2-3 days!  If you show up to a race with just one carb heavy meal under your belt, you’re starting the race off on the wrong foot.  I really like to start increasing my carb intake 5 days before the race (in my case, the marathon on Sunday).

How do you carbo load & how much is enough?  This is completely subjective for each person but all the books and articles I’ve read suggest that 80-95% of your daily calories (leading up the the race) should be from carbs I found this carb calculator online if you want to see the breakdown of how many carbs you should aim for.  Preferably your increased glycogen stores will be from complex carbs (whole grains, vegetables and legumes) in the week leading up to the race and then simple carbs (refined wheat, fruits) the day prior to the event.  The reason I like to switch to simple carbs the day prior is because, for me at least, they’re digested easily.  Try to stay away from fats and refined sugars.

Speaking of digestion.  The day before the race, I really like to have my last big carb meal during the day and not at night.  I want to make sure to give my body enough time to have any ummm adverse reactions (you know what I’m talking about) before the marathon.

Clean eating has it’s own challenges when it comes to carbo loading.  It’s really easy to follow a clean diet 2-3 days out from the race but the day before I tend to relax a bit.  I’ll order pasta made with refined noodles or thin crust pizza made with white flour.  I had a twitter follower @jennvoss ask about paleo carbo loading and found a great article that explained the Paleo carbo loading how-to’s.  I don’t know enough about Paleo eating to even offer an opinion in that area.

So what are some clean foods that are high in carbs?  Look at stocking your fridge and pantry with whole wheat pasta, brown rice, granola, whole wheat pancakes & waffles (YUM!), oatmeal, figs, dates, raisins, baked potatoes & sweet potatoes, yams, beans (eat those early in the week, not the day or two before the race due to the fiber content), peas, bananas, berries, citrus, etc….

Just to give you an idea of how I’ll carbo load this week, I started last night with a yummy pasta primavera.  This hearty dish is packed full of veggies and the whole wheat noodles provide a stick with you punch.  Since hubby doesn’t really care for veggies (might be why he’s sick….) I’ll actually eat this for a few different meals.

pasta primavera


My breakfasts will consist of my either favorite Nature’s Path flax cereal with raisins or RAW oats.  Lunch – a sammich and veggies.  Dinner – Either a pasta or rice dish.  My snacks (I live for my snacks!) will be fruit, crackers, granola, or yogurt.  And race morning will be cereal, part of a bagel and then 30 minutes before the race I’ll drink about 6oz of Cytomax.  WHEW! I think that covers everything for this post.  Are you tired of reading yet??

Just one more morsel of advice….. Stay away from the scales this week!! You will gain weight, possibly even a few pounds, but it’s OKAY.

Question:  How do you prefer to carbo load before a big event? What’s your favorite pre-race meal?

MCM Weekend Fun

Happy Halloween y’all!! I hope you have something spooktacular planned for tonight! Me? I’m just going to take it easy at home.  I know, I’m such an old lady…

I did it!! I’m officially a ‘marathoner’!!  It was the most amazing experience and I seriously can’t wait to do it again!  But before I recap the race, I want to recap the weekend first.  It would be sensory overload for me to try to mash everything into one post.


The weekend festivities officially started Friday with Jody and I flying to DC. I was so excited to board the plane with him because up until late Thursday afternoon we were thinking that he wasn’t going to be able to go thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  Thankfully he was able to get his flight worked out to where he left right after the race.  Me = happy!

We had a layover in Atlanta where we grabbed a highly overpriced turkey panini before boarding the plane to DC.  After a very uneventful flight –just the way I like it– we arrived.  I’m a sucker for American flags so it was nice being greeted by the red, white, and blue.

We hopped the shuttle to our hotel and enjoyed a splendid sunset from our room before heading out to grab some grub.

Jody and I decided to claim Friday night for ourselves since the rest of the weekend would be spent doing marathon stuff.  We ended up at Kora where I ordered a hand-tossed pizza (carbs, right?) and a super tasty pineapple-lime mojito.  Then we went back to the hotel and waited for Mary (she’s like a mom to me) and her husband Greg to arrive.  Mary’s been training in San Antonio to run this race with me.

The next day we headed to the expo to pick up our bibs, t-shirts and free stuff.  It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to me to pick up my bib.  I’m always afraid that something’s going to go wrong.  Like me forgetting my e-card, or me getting lost in their system.  But, like normal, everything went fine.

After picking up my shirt and bib we headed across the street to the expo.  I have to admit that I was fairly disappointed in the expo.  I don’t know if it was because we hit it the last day or what but it just had a wonky feel to it.  I wasn’t crazy about the vendors and there wasn’t very many freebies.  C’mon, we all know freebies are the best part of the expo.

One really fun thing at the expo was they had a Marine Corps band playing some swing songs.  This made my former band nerd self incredibly happy.  It was really cute because there was an elderly guy (obviously retired military) that plucked a young girl out of the crowd and started twirling her around to the music.  You could tell that he was having a great time!

This was a really cool tribute bike in memory of fallen Marines.

Wall of motivational blurbs for the runners.

After the expo we met up with my hubby for lunch.  (Jody had to stay at the hotel to work on a presentation that he was giving Monday – boooo.) Mary and I opted to carb-up for the marathon during lunch instead of having a heavy supper to make sure everything digested well.  I ordered some sort of chicken farfalle pasta in a spicy vodka cream sauce.  Maybe not the safest pre-marathon meal but I like to live on the edge a bit.  Also, I knew I’d have at least 16 hours if my system decided not to like it.  And it. was. tasty!

After lunch, Mary and I took the Metro back to the hotel to relax while the guys went and did some sight-seeing.  We stopped and picked up some celebratory wine for after the marathon.  I also had a mini birthday celebration at the hotel thanks to my dad and my cousin Bridget but I’m saving that for my birthday post.

Finally, it was time to head to bed.  I laid out all of my gear that way I wouldn’t have to search for stuff the next morning.

With Hurricane Sandy I didn’t know what type of gear to wear I needed. So I had cold weather and warm weather laid out. I opted for warm weather.

This is when it started to hit me that I was running a marathon in just a few hours.  I don’t know why but I didn’t experience any pre-race jitters.  I was incredibly excited but I didn’t have any of the doubts or second guessing like I expected.  I think after spending so much time preparing for the race I was just ready to run it; there’s only so many emotions you can go through before you’re just ready to be done.

Then it was beddy-by time for Gina.  I needed to get some beauty rest before the 3:45 alarm went off.  It was definitely a great weekend and a great kickoff to the run.  The only bummer was my training girls stayed at a different hotel so we didn’t get to do a lot  together. I did get to meet up with them at the race. 🙂

Stay tuned….The race recap is next!

Question:  Do you typically get pre-race jitters or are you just ready to get it over with?