Pasta Alternatives for Long Distance Runners

Quinoa salad
Chanterelle mushrooms and big eye tuna with quinoa and navel oranges.. Thomas Barwick

One complaint that I frequently hear from marathoners-in-training is, "I'm so sick of pasta!" Pasta is a popular pre-race or pre-long run meal for long distance runners because it's easy to make, it's not expensive, and it supplies those much-needed carbs. But even though it comes in many shapes and flavors, the pasta routine can get boring.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a tasty and healthy alternative to pasta.

It’s a grain that has a fluffy, creamy, almost crunchy texture and a nutty flavor when cooked. Quinoa is not only packed with carbs, it's also very protein-rich. A 6-ounce serving of quinoa contains 132 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of protein, and 2 grams of unsaturated fat. Look for quinoa in the grain section at health food stores and some supermarkets. And you don't have to be a gourmet chef to prepare it – if you can boil rice, you can cook quinoa.  Some runners I know eat it with fish or chicken, or even cold in a salad.

Pasta is a traditional favorite among marathon runners, but other options include bread, potatoes, rice, pizza (go easy on the cheese), and sweet potatoes. If you have a hard time eating that much carbohydrates, then liquid sources -- such as sports drinks -- are another option.

It's also important to get some protein the day before your long runs or marathon, so include a 3-4 oz.

serving of fish, meat, or tofu. Avoid high-fiber or gas-forming foods like beans or cereals with added fiber and any type of food that may upset your stomach or can interfere with sleep.

Remember that foods that work for one runner may not work for another. You'll want to try out different carbo-loading foods before your big race, so you can see what works best for you.

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