Maximizing Carb Intake for Best Performance

Maximizing Carb Intake for Best Performance

By Alex Paton, Owner Shock Performance Nutrition

The whole idea of running sounds a lot more preferable to me if I know it involves eating copious amounts of carbohydrates for both preparation and follow-up.  Your reasons for running may be different than mine, but what is interesting is we both can capitalize on what we love because they have a direct relationship with our performance potential.

Whether you are running for a specific goal like becoming podium fast or you just want to complete; the combination of simple and complex carbohydrates along with appropriate timing can increase the results for each stride you take toward your success.

Carbohydrates aka carbs are digested and converted into energy for runners to keep moving. Adequate carbohydrate consumption is always a worthy focus for most healthy populations, but for long distance runners it is particularly beneficial to practicing and incorporate carbohydrate loading.  As practice makes perfect, so can experimenting with carb loading in the training season. I strongly advise trying as little to no new food, drinks, products, gels, or supplements on race day. This could make or break you, and the risk of breaking you after all your hard training outweighs consuming something new.

Carbohydrate Facts:

What is glycogen?

Glycogen is energy that is easily available to your body. Runners burn both glycogen and fat during their training and races as ways of fuel.  However, glycogen breaking down into energy is easier for the body to make the energy it needs.  In a runner’s case, fat converting to energy takes longer and therefore not the preferred energy source nor efficient for performance.

What is “the wall”? What happens in your body?

As your body starts to run out of glycogen during a run, you can experience both literally and figuratively the feeling that you “hit a wall.” This is an obvious indicator that your body is running on empty and starting to go after your fat stores.  Now some people might think this is an excellent way to increase your figure, this is the opposite goal of an athlete trying to get to the finish line.  When the body has to use fat as its energy source, the body has to slow down in order to convert the source.

Carb Loading: You can overdo carbohydrate loading. If you have ever ran with a big rock feeling in your stomach too close to running, you know what I am talking about.  “Rock-running” also means slow running. But the right amounts of carb loading can in fact help you avoid the wall and run your best.

Practice loading once a week for your long runs in training season

As the Manitoba Marathon takes place on a Sunday, it is wise to place your longest run in the week on Sundays.  I would even advise aiming to do the run close to the time you will actually be racing, so that when you arrive on the third week of June, your body knows what it is supposed to do.  This also means about two days prior to your longest runs in the week, start emphasis on eating more carbs and less fat and protein than the rest of the week.  Chart what foods work the best for you, what foods don’t, and the timing, amount and combination you consumed them.

A few days before race day:

By about Thursday/Friday until Sunday Morning Go Time, approximately 80 percent of what you consume should be carbohydrates. This is where glycogen can be built and avoid the wall feeling.  Appropriate rest and hydration is also key during this time.


A common misconception is that runners should load heavy the dinner before the big day.  This needs to be trialed prior to race day as every individual is different.  While the goal is carbohydrate eating at dinner, it should be a smaller meal focusing on carbohydrates.  Light fat and protein, aim to be easy on any cream sauces, cheese etc.  Your body needs time to digest and begin storing up fuel for your run.

Race DAY

Aim to practice on your long runs what Race Day breakfast is like.  When the day is finally here, you should aim to wake up a tad hungry. Two to three hours before the run or race, aim to consume about 150 grams of carbs.  You can have a bagel with jam and go back to bed. You could even keep this beside your bed, set an alarm and eat it, but make sure to sit upright to avoid any stomach discomfort.

Shock Performance Nutrition

Counselling, Seminar and Life Coaching Services Athlete, Sport & Wellness Specialist CCF Certified Life Coach Bachelor of Science (Nutritional Sciences) (B.Sc.(Nutr.Sc.))

Phone: (204) 899-2866


Instagram & Facebook: @shockperformancenutrition

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