The Best Carb Loading Foods For Running

September 29, 2022

Nick Hancock

As a dedicated runner, you understand the critical role that nutrition plays in achieving your best performance. When it comes to conquering long runs and races, carb loading emerges as a proven strategy to ensure you have the energy reserves necessary to excel. But with a plethora of options available, it's essential to identify the best carb loading foods specifically tailored for running. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the top choices that will effectively fuel your body before your next significant running endeavour.

Now, before we dive in, it's crucial to emphasise that carb loading doesn't give you a free pass to go overboard or indulge recklessly. This isn't an invitation to unleash a frenzy of sweet treats or devour an excessive amount of carbohydrates without considering other aspects of your nutrition. Instead, we'll focus on smart choices that strike the perfect balance between maximising energy stores and maintaining overall nutritional health.

Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for endurance activities, as they provide the glycogen required to sustain your exertion levels over extended periods. By strategically increasing your carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to your race or long run, you can ensure your glycogen stores are fully stocked, setting the stage for optimal performance and minimised fatigue.

In this article, we'll explore a diverse range of carb loading options, including both simple and complex carbohydrates, to provide you with a comprehensive toolkit for effective fuelling. From nutrient-rich grains and pasta variations to energy-packed fruits and vegetables, we'll cover the best choices to help you power through your runs with ease.

Remember, balance and moderation are key. It's essential to consult with a sports nutritionist or a registered dietitian to develop a personalised carb loading plan that aligns with your specific needs and goals. They can guide you in making informed choices, tailoring your approach to optimise performance while maintaining a well-rounded and nutritious diet.

So, let's embark on this nutritional journey together and uncover the best carb loading foods for running. Get ready to fuel up, reach new heights, and achieve your running aspirations. As we explore the path to peak performance, remember that mindful carb loading is the secret weapon, and reckless indulgence is not the way.

Carb Loading Before a Marathon: Fueling Your Success

Preparing for a marathon requires careful attention to your nutrition, and carb loading is a vital strategy to optimize your performance on race day. To ensure you have the energy reserves necessary to conquer the 26.2-mile challenge, it's crucial to select the best carb loading foods for running. In our comprehensive blog, we explore a variety of nutrient-rich options that will power you through the race and help you achieve your marathon goals. Discover the top choices for effective carb loading before a marathon and set yourself up for success on your marathon journey.

Conventional wisdom goes out the window with long race nutrition!

Actually eating sugary stuff in the 72 hours or so before a race is one of the best ways to get your glycogen stores up, hence the addition of Oreo’s and Haribo into my pre-race meal planI also really enjoy a pizza the night before… I am going to make enemies here, but for me it’s got to be a Ham and Pineapple pizza 🍕

🍍Pineapple, does indeed belong on pizza 😂

The aforementioned conventional wisdom is that big bowls of pasta and rice are the order of the day, but this simply isn’t the case.

Firstly, to get well saturated glycogen stores with pasta, you’d have to eat a hell of a lot of pasta to fill them up.

Secondly, all that pasta before a race will leave you feeling lethargic, bloated and, probably, needing to shit every few miles during the race. So, stop your pasta parties the night before a race and start loading 3 ish days out, but also don’t go mental!

The fact you are tapering means you are using less glycogen stores in training anyway

sliced carrots and green bell pepper on brown wooden chopping board

Optimal Carb Loading for Runners: Embrace the Sweetness

When it comes to preparing for a long-distance run, carb loading plays a crucial role in maximising your energy reserves. And guess what? Sweeties, those delightful treats that ignite childhood nostalgia, can actually be a fantastic option for carb loading. So, if you're gearing up for a race or a particularly intense training session, don't be afraid to reach for those sweet goodies to support your performance and endurance.

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for endurance activities, as they provide the necessary glycogen to sustain prolonged physical exertion. By strategically increasing your carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to a race or long run, you can ensure that your glycogen stores are fully stocked, helping you maintain energy levels and ward off fatigue.

Now, you might be wondering, are all sweet treats created equal? While it's true that indulging in your favourite sweets, cookies, or sugary snacks can provide a quick dose of carbs, it's important to make wise choices. Opt for sweets that offer both simple and complex carbohydrates, as they provide a combination of fast-acting energy and sustained fuel.

However, it's crucial to emphasise that carb loading should be approached with balance and moderation. It's not a free pass to devour copious amounts of sugar-laden treats without considering other aspects of your nutrition. Strive for a well-rounded diet that incorporates a variety of nutrient-rich foods alongside your carb loading strategy.

To ensure a safe and effective carb-loading experience, consult with a sports nutritionist or a registered dietitian. They can provide personalised guidance tailored to your specific needs and goals, helping you find the ideal balance between indulging in sweeties and maintaining a nutritious diet.

So, as you prepare for your next long-distance race or intense training session, embrace the sweetness of carb loading. Remember, it's all about fuelling your body for optimal performance and enjoying the journey along the way. Stay safe, have fun, and savour those sweeties as a delightful part of your overall nutrition strategy.


incorporating the best carb loading foods into your running nutrition plan can make all the difference in your performance. From sweet potatoes to oatmeal, pasta to bananas, there are plenty of tasty options to choose from. Experiment with different foods and find what works best for your body. By fuelling up with the right carbs, you'll be well on your way to achieving your running goals.

Explore the vital topic of nutrition for long-distance runners in our comprehensive blog. Discover the key strategies and dietary considerations that can fuel your performance and enhance your endurance on the road.

For more information on carb-loading or if you're ready for an online running coach to improve your running performance, contact me at

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