The “pre-race meal” often consists of a giant plate of pasta with sauce, breadsticks, and maybe some salad at the typical “carbo load” dinner. While a moderate portion of this high-glycemic, low-fiber meal can be appropriate for topping off glycogen stores the night before a race, it’s easy to go overboard.
Additionally, that huge plate of pasta can actually harm performance by causing stiffness and leaving you feeling bloated, as all that pasta pulls water into your gut. With continued training and racing, consuming this type of meal on a regular basis may actually have a negative impact on heart health.
Instead of overloading your body with simple carbohydrates the night before a race or training session, focus on regularly eating a diet that includes variety of complex carbohydrates from foods like sweet potatoes, squash, berries, and whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa) as tolerated. Then, when a race or heavy training session comes up, simply focus on getting some carbohydrates with the meal the night before.
Luckily there are so many great alternatives to white pasta and bread sticks out there. From pasta made with bean flour to spiralized vegetables, there are other ways to top off your glycogen stores without such a high glycemic load. Consider the amounts of calories, carbohydrates, fiber, and estimated glycemic load for the following foods.
|Food||Amount||Calories||Carbohydrates||Fiber||Estimated Glycemic Load|
|Spaghetii, cooked||1 cup (140 g)||221||43||3||23|
|Sweet Potato, cooked||1 med (151 g)||115||27||4||11|
|Spaghetti Squash, cooked||1 cup (155 g)||42||10||2||2|
|Zucchini, cooked||1 cup (180 g)||29||7||3||2|
Combining the complex carbohydrates in vegetables, like the ones listed, with other ingredients, such as tomato sauce, can provide you with enough energy to train or compete without the high glycemic load and heaviness that the big plate of pasta would have. In addition, substituting pasta with vegetables provides additional vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that help promote overall health and recovery.
Everyone is different, so it is important to experiment with what works for you before a big race.
Give this Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore a try over zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, spiralized sweet potato, or whole wheat, brown rice, or quinoa pasta the night before a couple of your long training days to see which one helps you feel your best.
Serves 4 | Recipe by Lauren Larson, MS, RDN
2 teaspoons cooking oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
1 (4-ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
Rosenbloom, Christine A., E. J. (2012). Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals(5 ed.). Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
SELF Nutrition Data. http://nutritiondata.self.com/.
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