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Tara Gidus

Is Pasta Really The Only Option?

It’s a common thought among endurance athletes to get “seconds” on pasta the night before the big race. But you really don’t need overstuff yourself the night before. Pasta is a good source of complex carbs, but there are many other great options out there to augment your body’s muscle glycogen, or “energy” stores. When muscles are fully saturated with carbohydrates, you will feel ready for competition and able to sustain your desired race pace for longer.


Carb loading doesn’t always have to be a pasta party. Make it more like a fiesta by adding some variety and different colors for your pre-race party. Here’s a list of my favorite high carbohydrate foods that are perfect pre-race choices.


Quinoa. Quinoa is a seed grain that also offers a moderate amount of protein. In order to make it pop, add Cajun grilled chicken and sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top. Keep in mind, skinless chicken breast contains less fat and is more easily digested than steak.


Couscous. This pasta-like grain goes great inside stuffed peppers. Add feta cheese, onions, and different peppers for extra flavor.




Rice. Rice bowls can be a fun way to personalize your dinner. Mix in a little egg for a healthier option of fried rice or top with veggies, chicken, or your favorite lean protein.


Tortillas/Fajitas.  Look for whole grain tortillas or choose corn tortillas.  Choose fajitas over greasier quesadillas, especially the night before a big race.  Burritos, tacos, and even enchiladas are all good choices. 


Potatoes. Potatoes offer a high carb option and also contain potassium, an electrolyte that is lost through sweat when you race. Sweet potatoes also offer a high amount of vitamin A (beta-carotene) and antioxidants. Slice and bake them for some tasty sweet potato fries.


Fresh fruit. Fruit provides quick energy along with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Pair with nuts or seeds to finish a meal!


Share pictures of your pre race meal concoctions!


Questions or comments? Tweet me @DietDivaTara


Known as the "Diet Diva," Tara Gidus is a nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and the official nutritionist of runDisney.