Carb-loading for Beginners

“How do I train for a marathon?” is a question many runners ask themselves somewhere along their training journey. Whether you just started a running program or have been running for years, at some point, many runners want to embark upon the marathon accomplishment. With this goal comes an intensive training schedule, but many runners often forget to incorporate an appropriate fueling schedule as well.

While putting in the miles is important, providing your body with adequate nutrition for daily training and long runs is essential to success on marathon day. Without proper fuel, running can leave you worn out as well as delay recovery time. With proper nutrition, you should have an extra pep in your step as you log the miles. Dialing in on three marathon training questions can make or break your training success!

I feel hungry all the time and I’m running tons, so can I eat as much as I want?

The reality is, exercise makes you hungry, especially if you have increased your training volume. While you do need added nutrition when running more, it is not a free pass to eat everything you want. Many people actually gain weight training for a marathon because they didn’t calculate their nutrition appropriately. So, how do you know how much you need?

One of the best ways to identify your calorie and macronutrient needs is to plug your height, weight, age, gender and training volume into a food tracking app, as it can calculate your needs for you. Once you know your calorie needs, a good recommendation is consuming 50 percent of your diet from carbohydrate, 25 percent from protein and 25 percent from fat. If you can work with a registered dietitian, even better, but this is a good place to start. Then, try to eat smaller, more frequent meals with carbohydrate and protein throughout the day. Eating more often will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you from wanting to snack on everything in sight!

How do I carb-load and should I do it for long runs as well?

carb loadingMany people think carb-loading means eating as much pasta and bread as you want the night before a long run or race. Well, kind of. The goal of carb-loading is to maximize your glycogen stores (stored carbohydrate in the muscle and liver) so that you begin the run 100 percent fueled. Starting partially fueled means you are likely to run out of gas earlier in the run, which is bad news.

The newer school of thought on carb-loading is starting the day or two before the event. The recommendation is to eat some extra carbohydrates at each meal and snack 24-36 hours prior, versus stuffing yourself the night before. Typically, the day before a long run or race, exercise is decreased. Thus, eating more carbohydrates and moving less should allow you to fill up your fuel tank adequately.

Do I need to consume carbs on long runs or just during the marathon?

The sports nutrition recommendation for fueling during exercise is 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour after the first 60-90 minutes. If you know your workout will be hours long, then start fueling with carbohydrates earlier so you don’t get behind. The longer you run, the harder it is for your body to digest nutrition, as blood flow is diverted from the intestines to working muscles during exercise.

If you have never consumed fuel during exercise, start practicing on long runs with approximately 20-25 grams of carbohydrate every 30 minutes. Examples include a gu, 8 oz of sports drink and a few bites of a granola bar or some carbohydrate energy chews. For shorter runs, hydrating with water is just fine, but if you did not get to eat before your run or if it is hot and humid outside then adding a sports drink as part of your hydration can be helpful.

Be sure to check out what sports drinks and foods will be available at your race and practice with those foods so you are familiar with digesting them. The more prepared you are, the better your marathon will go!


If you are interested to hear more and receive personalized nutrition, check out STYR’s app, fitness tracker and suite of connected smart devices. Through the platform, you can track and log activity, food, hydration, sleep, nutrition, mood and more to personalize your nutrition needs based on data, science and access to registered dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers.

Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We insist that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical/health condition or treatment and before initiating a new health care regime. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the STYR app or on

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