For any long distance runner or keen fitness enthusiast, the term carb loading will be a familiar one. It is the process by which you replenish your body’s natural store of glycogen, which is diminished when you exercise.
The body stores around 90 minutes worth of glycogen before you run out, so you need to either top it up as you go (marathon runners in particular will appreciate the need for sports drinks and carb snacks during a race). But you can also replenish and load up your glycogen ahead of a fitness event and this is known as carb loading.
With that in mind, here are some snack and meal ideas for when you need to horde a few extra carbs to maximise your body’s energy reserves.
Pancakes and banana/blueberries and maple syrup
Pancakes are an American staple in terms of breakfast and they are also a tasty way of carb loading. You can choose a variety of toppings; bananas bring carbs and protein to the party, while blueberries are jam packed with antioxidants. Add a touch of maple syrup for extra flavour and wash it down with a cup of coffee and you’ll be ready to face the day with more energy than you know what to do with.
Bagel and peanut butter
This is one of the runner’s favourite snacks, even though there isn’t a trace of butter to be found in it! It is packed full of peanuts, protein, fibre and unsaturated fat, which makes you feel full for longer. This helps athletes maintain a sustained effort during lengthy training sessions and/or races.
Toast and honey
There’s nothing like a piece of toast with butter and honey at the best of times, but even better when you’re training. This is ideal as part of your breakfast or before a run. Perfect with a cup of coffee.
A handful of dried apricot is a great way of topping up those carb levels. They’re full of vitamins, fibre and potassium and taste great. Prunes are also packed full of carbs and they’re low in fat too. But they both have plenty of fibre, so don’t have too many the day before a big race, or you may find your stomach rebels somewhat.
This is a quick and easy way of taking a carbohydrate hit. Admittedly there are hundreds of energy bars on the market to choose from. But by and large the carbs tend to come from the same sources in all of them, which are rice, oats, fruit and nuts.
Jacket potato with tuna
Tuna is rich in healthy fats and protein, which helps lower cholesterol as well as helping you recharge your energy batteries. And the jacket potato is a walking carbohydrate machine. So it’s the perfect combination.
Pasta with chicken and asparagus
If we’re talking athlete’s super food, then pasta is probably it. It’s so simple to cook, easy to digest and swiftly turned into energy by the body. Wholegrain pasta is even better than its refined cousin, as it makes you feel fuller. Chicken adds protein and asparagus adds vitamins, all cooked with a touch of garlic, some onion and a tomato sauce. Marvellous.
Porridge with milk topped with fruit
Porridge is a bit of a super food for runners because it provides low glycaemic index carbohydrate, which is released into the body slowly and continues to provide energy throughout the day. It’s full of carbs and can be topped with any fruit of your choice to give it an even healthier twist.
Turkey sandwich on wholegrain bread
Some sliced, lean turkey breast on wholegrain bread, with low fat mayo and a little butter, some sliced tomato and a lettuce leaf or two. It’s the perfect lunch, end of.
Grilled salmon and whole grain rice
Fish is a fabulous source of protein and in combination with whole grain rice, you will feel fuller for longer and be giving your body all the energy it needs. A green side salad is a super healthy option.