by Helen Tamblyn

Carb Loading Ideas For Marathon Runners

Training for a big event? Looking for some ideas for carb loading? Blogger Helen Tamblyn shares her favourite foods for carbs before a big event.


Pasta with turkey meatballs and pesto

Pasta is without a doubt the athletes food of choice when it comes to carb loading. It’s simple to cook and is quickly turned into energy. My favourite meal for the night before a big race, I enjoy a bowl of tricolour fusilli with homemade turkey meatballs and pesto. The meatballs are so simple to make; simply season turkey mince with a pinch of salt, pepper and garlic, shape into balls and grill. Turkey is a good source of protein and once added to the pasta and pesto, is a delicious and filling pre-race meal. I sometimes stir in spinach and using wholegrain pasta makes it even healthier. Remember not to go too overboard on portion sizes – most carb loading should be done in the days leading up to your event and you don’t want to feel too full from the night before on the day!


Jacket potatoes

I LOVE jacket potatoes and they are a great option for lunch when carb loading. Whilst I personally love them loaded down with far too much butter and cheddar cheese, when carb loading I opt for baked beans or tuna. Tuna is full of proteins and potatoes are nutrient dense, including plenty of vitamin C – great for preventing colds!



Rice is high in calories and low in fat. Chicken or salmon risotto is popular in our house when an event is coming up as it’s delicious and easy to thespyexpert make, if a little time consuming. Risotto is a really versatile dish, so once you have mastered it, you can add anything you like. Using a can of tomatoes in the stock and adding plenty of vegetables is a tasty Mediterranean inspired twist and suitable for vegetarians, whilst giving a great hit of vitamins along with your carb intake.


Pitta and hummus

A fantastic snack for carb loading in the days leading up to your event, pitta and hummus is delicious and healthy. Whilst hummus is fairly low in carbs, if you are making it yourself, you could bulk it up by adding red pepper or olives. It’s a low fat topper for a more carb heavy pitta and a great snack to have on the go. I like to toast my pitta and usually opt for a wholemeal version.


Toast and jam

And finally, my breakfast of choice for the day itself is toast and jam. I usually opt for a granary bread and enjoy a couple of slices topped with a little jam an hour or so before the event. Granary bread contains carbs and I find the natural sugars in jam give my blood sugar levels a bit of a boost. In a bigger race, it may not be possible to eat your breakfast as little as an hour in advance, so a banana in the starting pen 45 minutes before is also a tried and tested routine for me as bananas are a great source of slow releasing energy and easy to digest.



Remember – carb loading shouldn’t all be crammed in the night before, but should be over the course of a few days. Everybody is different and it’s about finding what is right for you. Good luck!