Top Tips for Carb Loading and a Settled Stomach on Race Day

Top Tips for Carb Loading and a Settled Stomach on Race Day

- By Alister Gardner, 5-6 min read


Your training is done and now it is time to prepare for the big day. Here are our top tips to help you get to the start line properly fuelled and your tummy feeling settled.

Top up the carbs

Carb loading (also known as glycogen loading) is just like topping up the gas in your car ready for a long drive, it is the process of topping-up glycogen reserves in your body which will be used to power your muscles for the greater pasrt of your race. If done properly, as much as 2000 calories of energy can be stored as glycogen in your muscles, liver and blood.

Previously, people would go through 3 phases of carb-loading in the week leading up to the marathon:

  • 1st phase, day T-7 to T-5: depletion of muscle glycogen
  • 2nd phase, T-4 to T-2: increased carbohydrate intake and hydration
  • 3rd phase, T-2 to T-0: maintain glycogen levels and ensure digestive comfort


Simpler, 2 phase approach

Nowadays, people tend to skip the first phase. The problem was that by drastically cutting carbohydrates for 2-3 days people would find themselves becoming irritable, tired and unfocused while the body tried to adjust to a lack of energy from carbohydrates. The depletion phase seemed to provide a slightly higher glycogen reserve by race day compared to not doing it, however the benefit was marginal and did not outweigh the negatives.

So folks now tend to skip straight to phase 2: From 4 to 2 days before the race, we want carbohydrates to make up 60-70% of our diet. Meals rich in pasta, potatoes and rice for example, are a great way to get those extra carbs in. Extra-large portions are not necessary as they can cause digestive system trouble. But an extra slice of bread or spoonful or pasta can be welcome and easily included without much digestive disruption. 


Reduce the risk of stomach issues on race day!

During the last 2 days before the race, we want to focus on reducing the risk of digestive issues the morning of the race (especially during the race!). To think about this only on the morning of the race is too late!

We want to maintain the high carbohydrate intake but not overfeed. Too much food is hard work for the digestive system. Light foods with low fibre are best (for example, plain pasta with a light sauce the night before and oatmeal for breakfast).

Watch out for these foods 

Certain foods can be irritants to some people’s digestive systems. If you have stomach issues (especially when you run) it would be worth avoiding or at least minimising the following for the next 2 days:

  • Peppers, onions, cabbage, tomatoes with their skin, cucumbers, salsify (a root vegetable), whole grain cereals.
  • Fruits and vegetables with thick skins and seeds, as well as unripened fruit and veg.
  • Milk products, greasy cooked foods and spicy foods
  • Alcohol, too much sugar and caffeine.
  • Too many raw veggies

Remember these foods are best avoided only for these 2 days. Fruit and veg are an important part of our diet!

Stay hydrated 

We want to be sure to stay hydrated too. Aim to add an extra glass of water with your lunch and dinner, or keep a bottle with you during the day and takes sips regularly. But avoid highly concentrated, sweet drinks.

Again, the night before the race, don’t over eat or drink. It may effect digestion in the night and you don’t want to carry all a large excess with you during the race the next day.

Hopefully, with these tips in mind, the only place you will be dashing to is the finish line

And most important of all - Have fun out there!

Learn how to race smarter and how fuelling really works for you 

Our product recommendation for hydration? Check out XACT ELECTROLYTES sport hydration tabs  

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 Alister is an elite runner and has a diploma in sport nutrition. He is co-owner at Course et Cie, an independent run store in Granby, Québec as well as co-owner of XACT nutrition.

You can follow and connect with Alister on Instagram and Facebook