Hubby and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary yesterday but now that I turn into a pumpkin after 8pm due to my marathon training, the only plan we made for our celebration was to stay home, order some comfort food, and watch some good television- and we did just that! As it was a special occasion, I made sure my dinner consisted solely of 3 out of the 4 major carb groups: pasta, bread, and croutons. The 4th being french fries, of course.
I was concerned that such a late night, heavy, 10,000 calorie meal would weigh me down going into my 6am spin class this morning but, on the contrary, I felt very strong, very motivated, and very fast, all thanks to that King of Saccharides, the Carbohydrate.
As everyone in the free world already knows, carbs have gotten a lot of bad press in the past decade hence the birth of the Atkins Diet, and recently, the Paleo Diet– “bad carbs” and “good carbs”, oh my. While Atkins focuses on lower carbohydrate intake, Paleo is all about eating pre-agricultural foods (if you can’t kill it or grow it, you shouldn’t eat it). The Paleo Diet only includes whole Stone Age foods– meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables- and even in the absence of breads, pastas, beans, potatoes, etc., the Paleo Diet can still be high or low carb.
On the other hand, the Atkins Diet includes processed grains and sugars, as long as they are low-carb and low-carb only, as well as the use of Splenda and other chemically enhanced foods. For example, salad dressing and mayonnaise would be okay on Atkin’s but not on Paleo. So, one can be Paleo AND Atkins, but you can be paleo and not be Atkins.
When it comes to carbohydrates and running, I’ve learned that I really need them. Both of them. “Good” carbs AND “bad” carbs. Bring ’em ALL on.
Normally, I eat as many whole grain complex carbs as I can. Simple carbs are basically sugars that are absorbed and used by the body very quickly, whereas complex carbs (cereal/pasta/bread and vegetables) are absorbed slowly into your system and provide a steady energy supply called glycogen, the fuel needed for running. Luckily, for us runners, both types of carbs serve a purpose.
The 2 days preceding a long run, I make an effort to up my intake of whole grain carbs because they provide that slow-burning energy I’ll need when running those double digits. However, the morning of, as well as during a long run- when my energy stores are running low- I take in simple, fast-acting carbs that immediately turn into glucose giving me a Super Boost of energy. So yes, I will eat a white-flour bagel or white-flour waffle in the morning, and then jellybeans or my new favorite sports gel during the run. Then after the run, in order to restock glycogen stores, I make sure to have a mix of slow and fast burning carbs, such as a whole-wheat bagel and a banana.
Now, I am not an expert in this field (I just play one on my blog) and I realize that this in not AT ALL the path to weight loss- I am not the size of a Barbie and I am only ingesting both types of carbs because my mileage is increasing and my body requires that fuel. Everything in moderation! And after the marathon, the white-flour foods will be banned, once again, from my grocery cart. (But I sure am relishing in white rice & pasta, pizza, plain bagels, and white bread in the meantime!)
How do you handle your carb intake? Do you focus on both types or change it up, like me? What do you eat the night before and the morning of a long run or race? What do you eat after?