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Carb Loading Meal Plans

author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
Carb Loading Meal Plans
A meal of spaghetti and garlic bread. Photo Credit: BumbimPensinee/iStock/Getty Images

Distance runners often carb-load -- eating enough carbohydrates to add extra glycogen, an energy source, to muscles --- before a race lasting 90 minutes or longer. The more glycogen stored, the more energy you have available during a race. Carb-loading is generally done only two or three days before the race. When carb-loading, around 70 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrate, advises the Colorado State University Extension. Substitute carbs for fats to keep your calorie intake stable.

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Starting a few days before your race, increase your carb intake to 7 to 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of body weight, per day. If you weigh 150 pounds, you'll need between 475 and 680 grams of carbohydrate per day, or 158 to 226 grams per meal, if you don't eat any snacks. At breakfast, combine these foods: 2 cups of cereal or oatmeal, three slices of whole wheat bread, two bananas and 16 ounces of fruit juice, adjusting the amounts for your weight. Or substitute an 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk (12 grams of carbohydrate) and two medium muffins ( 33 grams) for the fruit juice. Add an egg or 2 ounces of lean protein and limit fat.


While dinner before the race is the traditional time to pile on the pasta, it might be better to eat your biggest pre-race meal at lunch instead, suggests sports nutritionist Nancy Clark. Getting in three cups of pasta adds 100 grams of carbohydrate. One cup of tomato sauce adds another 20 grams. Substitute rice or another whole-grain for pasta if you prefer. Two slices of french bread adds almost 40 grams. Top it off with a small serving of lean protein and a glass of low-fat milk.

Dinner and Evening

For dinner, keep up your carb intake but avoid high-fiber foods, such as legumes, because too much fiber can cause digestive problems during a race. Include a small helping of lean protein, such as chicken, fish or turkey along with 2 cups of rice, another grain or mashed potatoes, for 100 grams of carbohydrate, along with 16 ounces of fruit juice for another 83 grams. Consider substituting a high-carb snack, such as a handful of jelly beans, four fig cookies or a fruit yogurt, each around 50 grams, for part of your meal.

Breakfast Before the Race

While carbs still dominate your meal the morning of your race, you don't need nearly as many calories as you did the day before. Eating too much just before a race can cause nausea. Two to three hours before the race, eat 1.5 to 2 grams of carbohydrate per 2.2 pounds, or between 102 to 136 grams if you weigh 150 pounds. A cup of oatmeal and a banana each add around 25 grams. Add 16 ounces of orange juice for another 50 grams, along with a slice of whole wheat toast, supplying 12 grams and you're set. Substitute two sports bars or cereal bars or 26 to 30 ounces of sports drink if they're easier to get down.

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