I’m 48 hours out from the Manhattan Half Marathon, and contemporary science and/or this Runner’s World article say I should be upping my carbohydrate consumption considerably to replenish my glycogen stores. Gone are the days when a simple spaghetti dinner constituted proper pre-race preparation. Instead, modern research now suggests runners should start carb loading two or three days before their half or full marathons, eating as many as four grams of carbs for every pound of body weight – or about 2,400 calories of carbs a day for a 150 pound individual. (Thanks, Runner’s World, for doing that math for me in your article. I’m totally not going to fact check it, so here’s hoping your editors are good with a calculator.)
A daily intake of 2,400 calories of carbohydrates may sound scone-full and delicious, but it’s also significantly harder than you’d think. The above mentioned article says a full 85- to 95-percent of my calories should be coming from carbs in these crucial pre-race days. I don’t know if you know much about percentages, but 95 percent is a huge share. (Fun fact: It is also the statistical likelihood I’d steal a polar bear if left unsupervised in the Bronx Zoo overnight.)
To test just how difficult it would be, I dusted off my knowledge of the scientific method last week and conducted a little experiment: I recorded an entire day’s worth of dietary decisions on an iPhone app to see just how close my normal eating patterns got me to the 85+ percentage point threshold.
Although I actually went out of my way to up my daily carb consumption – trading my usual greek yogurt for Cheerios at breakfast, ordering a sweet potato with lunch, downing a wheat beer at happy hour (all in the name of science) – I still only achieved a subpar 54 percent. It leaves me wondering: save for shot-gunning a bag of all-purpose flour for dinner tonight, how the hell am I going to reach that range over the next two days?
(It also left me wondering why we don’t use more pie charts in daily adult life. Pie charts are arguably the best form of chart out there, because–honestly–aren’t most things shaped like pies superior? For example: pies. See also: pizza pies. And the number 3.14.)
What’s your best pre-race eating advice? And how did athletes prepare for long runs during the Atkins craze? Bacon-loading? Mmm.