Wonder Why Wednesday: Carbo-Loading

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a 10K. I like to go for the occasional jog, but I can’t remember the last time I ran 10k or anything close to that distance. I actually had to Google “what is 10k in miles” because I wasn’t even sure how long that distance actually was.

I figured I should probably train a little, but before I knew it, the race was just one day away. My training window had slammed shut.

Outside of training, the only other thing I had ever heard of that a person should do in preparation of a long distance run is carbo-loading. This means that you load up on carbohydrates the day before the race. I am not really sure why, but I am guessing it has to do with your body burning a lot of carbs during the long run, so you need to load up on them, hence the name.

My only other experience with carbo-loading was when I ran a 5K in college and my friends and I used carbo-loading as an excuse to go to Oliver Garden and gorge on all-you-can-eat breadsticks for 2 hours.

Since it was too late to train, I figured I should try loading up on carbs. Only problem was that I didn’t know when to begin carbo-loading? Should I start at breakfast the day before the race, or wait and have 12 slices of bread for dinner.

Is carbo-loading an actual thing that real runners do? If so, when should you do it? And why does it help? Let’s find out on today’s Wonder Why Wednesday.

The Lowdown On Carbo-Loading

According to, carbo-loading is very much a real thing. The reason it is so important is because carbs are a great source of energy, and you need a lot of energy to cover 13.1 or 26.2 miles (or however long 10K is).

“Proper carbo-loading—or filling your muscles to the brim with glycogen—won’t make you faster, but it will allow you to run your best and, if you race smartly, avoid the wall,” says Benjamin Rapoport, a 2:55 marathoner & Harvard M.D. student. (Marathoner & Harvard student? Show off)

As for my question on when to begin carbo loading, the articles says that you can’t completely fill your muscles with glycogen from just one meal, so you should start carbo-loading two or three days before your race.

Basically, by the time I remembered that carbo-loading was a thing, it was just as late as it was to actually start training.

As for just how many carbs we should load up on, sports nutritionist Ilana Katz says “85 to 95 percent of your calories should come from carbs. That equates to about four grams of carbs for every pound of body weight (for a 150 pound runner that’s 600 grams—or 2,400 calories—of carbs per day).”

If you are really interested in carbo-loading, the Runners World article even gives a schedule of which foods to consume. Sadly there was no mention of Olive Garden and their tasty breadsticks.




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