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Carbo-loading a tried-and-true strategy for marathoners

Many nearly 40000 runners who will take part Chicago MarathOct. 7 will load up carbohydrates night before. | Sun-Times

Many of the nearly 40,000 runners who will take part in the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 7 will load up on carbohydrates the night before. | Sun-Times

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Updated: September 28, 2012 6:15PM

After 22 years of managing Tuscany Restaurant on Taylor Street in Little Italy, Alex Prekurat knows what to expect the Saturday before the Chicago Marathon.

‘‘That’s what we call our marathon day,’’ he said.

Prekurat expects more of the same before the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 7.

‘‘Everything comes in between 4 and 7:30 [p.m.],’’ he said. ‘‘Everybody thinks they are going to finish in the top 10 and have to be back in bed by 8 p.m.’’

Tuscany will offer pasta specials and expects to go through lots of bread. Prekurat said most tables in that window are runners with their
family and friends.

The reason for the push is
carbohydrate-loading by runners the night before the marathon.

Hal Higdon, whose training is followed by thousands, posted an article about carbo-loading on his website ( to explain it.

Under ‘‘Answering the tough questions about sports nutrition,’’ dietitian Nancy Clark does that.

‘‘If you plan to compete for longer than 90 minutes, you want to maximize the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles because poorly fueled muscles are associated with needless fatigue,’’ wrote Clark, who authored Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners.

‘‘The more glycogen, the more endurance [potentially]. While the typical runner has about 80 to 120 mmol glycogen/kilogram muscle, a carbo-loaded runner can have about 200 mmol. This is enough to improve endurance by about 2 to
3 [percent], to say nothing of make the race more enjoyable.’’

Carbo-loading sounds simple enough: Stuff yourself with pasta, potatoes and bread. But do it the right way. The idea is to focus on carbs, not fats and proteins. So avoid the butter and sour cream on the potato, cheesy and heavy meat sauces on pasta and pats of butter on the bread.

Wesley Korir, the Kenyan who finished second last year and won the Boston Marathon this year, has a routine. Part of it involves feeding the mind, as well as the body.

‘‘I will stay inside [the hotel], read the Bible, listen to worship music,’’ he said. ‘‘It will take away the nervousness.’’

For lunch, Korir finds a tuna sub from Subway ‘‘sits well.’’ For dinner, he does much the same thing as most of the nearly 40,000 other runners. In his hotel room, he will order a basic pasta with ‘‘nothing creamy.’’

‘‘And a lot of water,’’ he said. ‘‘That is key: to stay well-hydrated three days before.’’

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