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?

Kid Approved Taco Cups

Thank you all for your supportive words and prayers from Wednesday’s post.  Every one of your comments meant a lot and really touched my heart.  Continued prayers for guidance and wisdom are definitely appreciated.

Several months ago I did a guest post for Stephanie from Fit Mom in Training which included a kid approved taco recipe and some thoughts on clean eating.  I realized recently that I’ve never shared it with y’all! *Face palm*  My apologies…

A lot of people have the misconception that clean eating is complex, uses incredibly strange ingredients and is not kid friendly at all.  And while that is partially true, there are a lot of great, clean recipes out there aren’t like that at all.  Recipes that use normal ingredients and are easy to make.  Introducing clean meals to your family is a great way to help your children develop life long, healthy eating habits.  Can I get an ‘Amen’?

So here is one of those recipes; a clean eating, kid approved taco cup recipe.  Besides loving these things myself, I tested them out on my niece and nephews this summer and they loved them, too!  They are a bit messy to eat (the taco cups, not the kids) but who cares, tacos are supposed to be messy, right?

Taco Cups

recipe 2

I have a 20 miler on tap for tomorrow – eek! I’m pretty nervous about it because 1.) my foot issues and 2.) I’m having to do it solo.  20 miles is a looooooooooooong way to run without any company.  I’ll have my Ipod but, for safety reasons, I really don’t like listening to when I’m by myself.  I want to be able to hear someone rushing up on me or if a car is about to hit me. Basically, I want to hear if I’m about to die – lol…  Only 5 weeks until Rock-n-Roll New Orleans; y’all wish me luck!

Questions:  What’s your favorite {healthy} go-to recipe for kids?  What do you do on solo long runs to keep yourself focused?

Banana Protein Pancakes

This is a recipe that I’ve been meaning to post for awhile, but like most things, I haven’t gotten around to it until now.  I can sometimes be a slight procrastinator…

During Hurricane Isaac (in August – told you this recipe is a bit late) I was craving pancakes.  Not all too unusual because I do love a good pancake.  However, there aren’t many pancake recipes that are clean eater friendly – that don’t taste like rubber.   Hmph… This led to playing in my kitchen which ultimately resulted in these beauties!  {Insert trumpet fanfare.}

Banana Protein Pancakes

Banana Protein Pancakes

They were fabulous and fluffy, very banana-y, and oh so good!  With only a handful of ingredients, you, too, can be enjoying some protein pancake goodness.  So here’s the recipe low down –

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used RAW).
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 cup milk (plus more if needed to thin the batter)

Step 1: Mix together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mash the banana to smithereens, add the milk, then add the lightly beaten egg and stir everything.  Slowly combine the dry ingredients with the wet; stir just until combined.  Depending on how you like your pancakes, you may want to add some milk to thin the batter out a bit.

Step 2:  On a pre-heated skillet, drop 1/4 c batter and cook until the entire pancake bubbles.  The trick to these pancakes is to cook them low and slow (like medium heat).  With the addition of the banana and protein powder, these puppies take quite a bit longer than regular pancakes.  If you have the heat up too high, you cook the outside and have pancake soup on the inside.  LOW and SLOW, people! Got it?

Step 3:  EAT!!  This recipe makes 10 pancakes if you use the 1/4 c method.

Since I love all things peanut butter, I topped mine with natural peanut butter and pure maple syrup – they were divine! I’ve also contemplated using chocolate protein powder instead of vanilla for a bit more decadent pancake.  If you try that, let me know how it tastes!  You can also ditch the protein powder all together and just make some really yummy, kid-friendly banana pancakes.


Tonight, my running buddies and I are meeting with a new running group.  And I. Am. Excited! The group meets every Wednesday at an Irish Pub.  They have a few different courses but after you’re done running you meet back up for drinks and appetizers.  Sounds fun, right?

Question: Are you a pancake lover? What’s your favorite topping??

Clean Taco Soup & Cornbread

Sunday was a horribly dreary day in South Mississippi.  I had no motivation and was totally glad it was a scheduled rest day.  It rained quite hard in the morning and then stayed grey and gloomy the rest of the day.  A perfect day to curl up with a cup of green tea and a book.

It was also perfect weather for soup.  I don’t know why rainy days make me crave comfort food, but they do.  It’s almost like my internal happiness switch is located in my stomach on rainy days.  So off to the cabinet I went to double check the ingredients for my usual go-to soup which is my step-mom’s mom’s (did you follow that? If not, it’s my step-grandma’s) taco soup.  I love it because it’s super easy and is comprised of ingredients that are staples in my pantry so I know I always have them on hand.   Now, there are about a billion (alright, slight exaggeration…) variations of this recipe on the web but Grammy’s version fits well into my clean eating lifestyle.  It’s also hubby approved which is a big bonus since he refuses to join the clean eating bandwagon. Someday, Jody, someday.  So here you go:

Clean Taco Soup:

  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 15.5oz can red (light or dark) kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 16oz can black beans, undrained
  • 1 15oz can pinto beans (I like to get the ones with jalapenos), undrained
  • 1 15oz can whole kernel corn; drained
  • 1 packet clean taco seasoning
  • 1 1oz packet of dry ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salsa (optional)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Plain greek yogurt (optional)

Brown the turkey and onion together, drain.  In a large pot, combine the 1/2 cup water, tomatoes and all of the beans together, including their liquids which will make the base of the soup.  Drain the corn and add to the soup mixture.  Next, add your browned meat, taco and ranch seasoning, stir.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors get friendly with each other.   Ladel soup into bowls and top with salsa, cheese and yogurt.

I understand that Taco Soup is typically served with corn chips but since I don’t eat corn chips, I like to make cornbread.  Besides, it’s a healthier option then fried chips.  The recipe I use for cornbread comes from Clean Eating Magazine but it’s a savory cornbread and I like mine on the sweet side so I made just a couple changes.  If you prefer savory, the original recipe can be found here.

Clean Maple Cornbread:

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal (make sure to get only cornmeal & NOT the cornmeal mix)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 egg whites, whisked
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, cornmeal and baking powder.  In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients: egg whites, milk and maple syrup.  Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Spray your pan with cooking spray (I used a 9×9 but if you like thicker bread you can use and 8×8) and then pour your batter into the pan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Cut into squares and serve with soup.  Side note – I like to put my pan in the oven while it’s preheating so it’s hot when I pour the batter in it; it creates a nice crust on the bottom of the cornbread.

Question:  What is your favorite rainy day meal?

Shredded Chicken with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach

To follow up on Wednesday’s Confessions of a Clean Eater post, I thought I’d {finally} post a recipe.  Hope y’all enjoy!

I love chicken.  I also love my Crockpot.  So any recipe that marries the two is genius in my opinion.  Throw in the fact that the recipe is clean and it’s a perfect trifecta! I found this recipe last year over at The Gracious Pantry and fell in love with the simplicity of it.  Now, the original recipe called for only four ingredients but if you know me, you know that I can’t leave well enough alone in the kitchen….so the recipe below is my tweaked version.  You can find the four ingredient version here.  Just as a heads-up, this recipe makes a lot.

Shredded Chicken with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach


My cast of characters.

  • 1 package of chicken breast (about 4 breasts or 1lb)
  • 16oz frozen spinach
  • 18oz spaghetti sauce (or ¾ a regular 24oz jar)
  • (2) 14.5oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)
  • ¼ bag of baby carrots (chopped)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (whole)
  • 1tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Brown rice


Combine all of the ingredients in your Crockpot except for the brown rice.  I’m slightly OCD sometimes so I like to layer things but seriously, it all ends up the same so just throw it in the pot.  Set the temperature on low and let it cook for 6-8 hours.

Where the magic happens.

45 minutes before you’re ready to eat, prepare your brown rice according to package directions.  Go ahead and shred your chicken while the rice is cooking and place it back in the Crockpot until the rice is done.  Once your rice is cooked, grab a bowl, add as much rice as you want, top with the chicken and enjoy!

Time saver tip:  Prepare the brown rice the day before and store it in the fridge.  It always reheats perfectly.  All you have to do when you get home from work is shred the chicken and reheat the rice.

Riley is NOT a fan of Crockpot meals because she has to smell it all day.

This dish is completely customizable so feel free to play with the ingredients.  I love the carrots in it because they provide a pop of sweetness but if that’s not your thing, leave them out.  Not a fan of spinach? I’ve substituted frozen kale before and it tasted great; the flavor was a bit earthier and the kale provided a little more crunch than spinach.  Looking for something Paleo friendly? Skip the brown rice and eat just the chicken mixture.  It really is up to you and your taste buds.

I love this meal so much not only because of the flavor but also because of the nutritional wallop it packs.  It’s low in fat (virtually fat free) and the chicken provides a great source of protein.  You get the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene along with potassium, vitamins C, K, B6 & A from the tomatoes.  From the spinach you get vitamins A, C, calcium and iron, and the carrots provide Beta-Carotene, vitamins C and K.  Annnnnnnd from the garlic…. You get bad breath – ha!

Happy noshing!!