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Carb-Load Before Races the RIGHT Way

Add Sweet Root Vegetables to Your Pre-Race Regimen

While I am a complete believer in “carb-loading” or loading up on carbohydrates weeks- and especially days- before a race, I am not a fan of all of the white bagels, white pasta and other simple carbohydrates that I see runners loading up on! Sure there is a time and a place for a big, gooey bagel (New York anyone?), but for our day-to-day eating, we should rely on complex carbohydrates such as 7-grain breads, brown rice and – this is where my favorites come in – sweet root vegetables!

Sweet root vegetables such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips, beets, carrots, turnips and rutabagas – are in season right now and are packed with nutrients that not only will fuel you during your performance but will also help you create a healthy, strong body. Not only do these root vegetables provide necessary carbohydrates, but they are also loaded with fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins C, D, E, G and K and potassium, which all runners need to help replenish lost electrolytes.

In addition, eating these vegetables can also greatly reduce our cravings for sweets due to their natural sugars that elevate blood sugar levels gently rather than delivering a quick, unhealthy jolt like simple carbohydrates do. Helping to keep our blood sugar levels balanced is a tremendous bonus when we are training and our blood sugar levels tend to get low with the increased training.

Root vegetables are also healing to the stomach, spleen, pancreas, skin and reproductive organs and help remove toxins from the body. Some claim that eating these vegetables helps lactating women produce more milk and helps relieve menstrual cramps and PMS. Bonus for the female athletes!

Here are some of my favorite recipes:

homemade sweet potato fries for runners

Sweet Potato Fries (My children LOVE these!)

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (and/or  carrots, beets or regular potatoes)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Dried oregano and rosemary (optional)
  • Maple syrup

Cut the sweet potatoes or other vegetables into thick fry-size slices. If you are using carrots or beets, make sure you peel them first. Place on a baking sheet and liberally douse with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and perhaps a little pepper and, if your crew is adventurous, oregano and rosemary. Place in the oven and cook at 350 degrees until golden brown (approx. 30 mins.) You will need to make sure to turn them as well. Serve with a side of maple syrup (high in iron) for dipping!

Grilled Beets for Runners

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Grilled Beets

  • Beets
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt

Clean beets and cut them into halves or fourths and place on a baking sheet with olive oil and sea salt. Cook at 375 degrees turning over until brown. These are delicious as a side dish or even served room temperature on top of a salad. Yum!

Grilled Acorn Squash

  • 2 acorn squash
  • Olive oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
grilled acorn squash for carb loading

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Cut acorn squash in half, remove seeds and place face up on a baking sheet. In a bowl, mix olive oil, cinnamon and nutmeg then brush on top of the acorn squash. Cook at 375 degrees until brown, which should take approximately 30-40 minutes. These are truly decadent, so satisfying AND take only a minute to prepare!

Written by

Katherine Pennington is a diet and lifestyle coach, writer, and founder of Be in Balance, which helps women and men lose weight, reduce stress and achieve more balance in their lives. Katherine is also an avid runner and marathoner and also advises athletes on how to fuel for maximum performance and health.

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