The first time I ran a half marathon, I couldn’t wait for dinner the night before. I had visions of the mounds of pasta I would greedily consume in the name of carb-loading. Come race day, I felt the effects of my three heaping servings of pasta primavera: one decidedly uncomfortable—and wholly immovable—carb boulder in the pit of my stomach. Not exactly the jolt of energy I’d been hoping for.
“A lot of people have this misconception that pre-race fueling is all about what you eat the night before—sort of a Last Supper mentality,” says Juliet Burgh, vice president of Philly-based Unite Fitness and nutrition guru for Team Philly Race Training. But to carb-load effectively (i.e., to maximize your body’s glycogen energy stores) you should steadily increase your intake of complex carbs (think whole grains, not candy bars) over the course of a week.
And the day before the race, it’s not just dinner you should be worrying about: All your meals count. “Your body runs off carbs, then fat, then protein—in that order,” Burgh says. In other words, if you don’t have lots of reserves stored up, you’ll be running on fumes by mile five.
Avoid that fate by fueling up smarter. Here’s what Burgh suggests for your pre-race breakfast, lunch and dinner, to turbo-charge your marathon performance.
Buckwheat Crepe at Creperie Beau Monde
Build your own crepe with your favorite lean protein and veggies, and add a side of Red Bliss potatoes for an extra carb kick. 624 South 6th Street, Queen Village.
Chic-P Salad at Sweetgreen
Falafel gets a makeover by staying out of the fryer: These chickpeas are baked, then served with mesclun, spinach, cukes and bell pepper, with a side of buckwheat bread for your dose of carbs. 3925 Walnut Street, University City, and 68 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore.
Dinner Done Right
Lemon-Miso-Tahini Stir-fry at Honeygrow
You didn’t think we’d forget the noodles, right? Here, they’re made from egg whites and served with chicken, edamame and shiitake mushrooms. Add some brown rice to increase your carb load. 110 South 16th Street, Center City, and 169 City Avenue, Bala Cynwyd.