6 carb-loading recipes that don’t involve pasta

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What’s on the menu the night before your long run or race? Probably pasta, right? It’s not that you’re on the wrong track: ‘Eating ample carbs stocks your muscles with glycogen, so you get the maximum available energy for your run,’ says sports dietitian Lauren Antonucci. But pasta isn’t the only food that provides that energy. From root vegetables to rice, many other options will deliver, with the bonus of adding variety and different nutrients. The key is making sure your choice is also low in fat and fibre, to keep your gut happy, says Antonucci. These tasty options do the trick.

1. Pizza + chicken

This is when you want a thicker dough rather than the thin and crispy option. If you’re making it at home, go for white dough (skip wholewheat today). Spread with tomato sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. Top with cooked chicken and vegetable slices. Don’t bother with a side salad, says Monique Ryan, author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes (Velopress). You don’t want to go fibre-crazy before a long run.

2. Rice + vegetables + fish or tofu

Start with a fairly hefty portion of rice, says Ryan (she suggests using 350g of cooked rice). Normally, she’d recommend wholegrain varieties for the extra fibre and nutrients, but you want quick-digesting white rice when preparing for a big run. Top with a small amount of veg and some low-fat protein, such as fish or tofu. Drizzle soy sauce on top to supply your body with sodium.

3. Pancake + syrup + eggs

This is an acceptable indulgence the night before a race. Pancakes are a great source of carbs (one six-inch pancake packs 22g) and you can pair them with one or two eggs to add some protein. Again, opt for non-wholegrain to keep the fibre content low and don’t go wild with the butter, as you want to keep the fat in check, too. Serve with strawberries and maple syrup for added carbs, says Antonucci.

4. Baked potato + cottage cheese + salsa

Bake your preferred potato (standard spud or sweet) and the bigger, the better. Both types offer similar amounts of carbs and potassium. Add low-fat toppings such as cottage cheese for protein, and some easy-to-digest veg, such as spinach. While beans may be a good source of carbs and a popular topping for a baked spud, skip them unless you know your stomach can handle them pre-race.

5. Quinoa + vegetable salad

‘Quinoa is great to carb-load with because it has protein but is easy on the stomach,’ says Ryan. It’s also a good source of iron, which is needed to ferry oxygen to your muscles. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that when women with low iron levels increased their intake, they experienced a boost in exercise performance. Combine 340g of cooked quinoa with chicken or tofu and some cooked vegetables (tomatoes, green beans), which are easier to digest than raw. Lightly drizzle with dressing to add flavour without too much fat.

6. Beef and barley soup + turkey roll

Soup is easy to digest and contains a good amount of sodium. ‘Barley is a wholegrain that’s not particularly high in fibre,’ says Antonucci. With your sandwich, go for a big, thick roll with a miserly amount of turkey, a smear of hummus and a slice of avocado and tomato, says Antonucci.