Taper Thoughts: Carb Depletion and Carb Loading


During this marathon training cycle, I have been very focused on recovery as an important part of my training after returning from stress fracture. This meant only training four days per week most weeks, and sometimes as little as three. During taper, I have been even more vigilant about rest days and recovery. Now that the hard training is done, I want to be sure every muscle is completely healed and adapted, and any possibility of weakness in my bones is treated with care and rest. I want to run this marathon, but I also want to be in a good, strong position to train hard in the spring and go for some PRs. So I have given myself at least two days rest between runs this week, and may run even less during my last training week. I am a little freaked out that I might lose fitness, but I know I’m better off resting now than not.

Given all that, I have not run yesterday or today, and with the marathon just over a week away now, I’ve been doing a bit of reading on training, tapering, and marathon racing. I can’t help it. It’s on the brain this week. And as a result, yesterday I discovered my new favorite running-centered blog, ScienceofRunning.com, which is written by elite running coach and former Oregon Project coach, Steve Magness. And I got to say, I’m in love. With the blog, that is. It’s all about the science of running, from the physiological to the psychological. I live for this stuff.

The article I was reading today discusses the advantages and disadvantages of carb depletion and carb loading in the week before the marathon. My typical marathon week carb loading plan goes as follows: 1. Eat everything in sight, especially the junk food. 2. Repeat as needed. End of plan. But to be completely honest, I have essentially been doing that for the past three months. And since my training mileage this time around hasn’t been the 6 days per week, peak at 55 miles that I’ve done in the past, all that junk isn’t quite getting burned up as I’d hoped. I have gained ten pounds while marathon training. Whoops.

So now I’m considering that maybe doing a 3 day carb depletion, followed by a 3 day carb load might be a really good idea. I’m no stranger to low carb eating, and dropping a couple pounds of water weight might help me run a little better on race day. I feel like it’s a little risky as I’ve never done that kind of carb loading before, but if I want to try it, this is the best race to do it with, since I’m not going for a specific goal time, have little to no expectation of PR, and have been really missing my low carb lifestyle these past few weeks. Plus, there have been studies to show this method to be quite effective in doubling glycogen storage and boosting performance. Might be an interesting experiment, and if nothing else, something to talk about on the show. As if I needed more to talk about.