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Carbo-Loading the Chicago Way

By Jacy Wojcik in Food on Oct 8, 2008 4:58PM


This Sunday, 45,000 people from across the globe will be racing through our streets in the annual Chicago Marathon. (Keep your fingers crossed the weather stays cool so everyone will have the chance to actually finish the 26.2 mile race this year). Since food is always on our mind we go to thinking- what do participants eat to prepare for such a physically taxing experience?

Most runners we spoke with (including our own EIC, Marcus Gilmer, who ran the marathon last year) practice some form of carbo-loading which is, simply put, upping carbohydrate intake to increase the storage of glycogen in the muscles to help ensure athletes will have enough energy throughout the workout. There are many modifications of carbo-loading— some people deplete the amount of carbs ingested several days before the event before increasing intake to around 70 percent of daily calories consumed. A different version gets rid of the depletion phase and calls for increased carb intake and decreased training for three days prior to the event. A third variation combines both depletion and increased carb intake but shortens the process into just one day.

Many athletes choose to make carbo-loading an fun event, cooking a huge pasta dinner with friends and family the night before the race. But for the thousands of kitchen-less, visiting runners and those that just don’t want to deal with cleaning dishes, several restaurants are offering carb-loaded dinners for marathon runners and pasta fans alike.

  • All week A Mano is offering a three-course pasta dinner for $26 with part of the price benefiting "Girls On the Run," a non-profit organization that encourages pre-teen girls to develop healthy lifestyles.
  • On Saturday, Gioco will feature their regular menu of pizzas and handmade Italian pasta plus a special risotto for the evening.
  • Big Bowl will offer a "High Carb Combo Marathon Menu" this Thursday through Sunday. Each combination features two high carb items varying in heat. Diners can choose from three combinations, all priced at $14.95.
  • Va Pensiero in Evanston is offering an all-pasta menu until Saturday at $39 per person.

Photo by LStolpman
For further carbohydrate-loading information, visit the Mayo Clinic website.