“How do you carb load?” is a question that I receive whenever I mention I am training for a long-distance running event.

Loading up on carbohydrates, or “carbs,” in the days leading up to an endurance event is a longstanding practice of many athletes, runners included. Carb loading allows you to build up glycogen stores to help you avoid hitting a wall and burning out all your energy on the big day, but it must be done thoughtfully and in adherence to listening to your body and keeping in mind the regime you are used to.

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When it comes to the running world and what this idea of carb loading looks like, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect. For example, one might notice that the meal served at a pre-race dinner typically looks a lot like spaghetti or lasagna. In the majority of cases, the meal in question includes non-vegan friendly ingredients, ruling it out entirely for plant-based athletes. Truthfully, although this meal option may work for some, for most, a single bowl of carbs the night before a race doesn’t cut it as far as pre-fueling goes.

Some might suggest doing an intense workout the week prior to your endurance event, so you can deplete your carbs and then carb load to build back up to your peak before expending again. At the week out point, others may already be well into the tapering process for their workouts.

Regardless of what your workout plan looks like, the idea of carb loading has started to take on a different appearance for many, especially considering the number of individuals restructuring their plant-based diets to avoid overdoing it on heavy pastas, or breads. That said, if you are aiming to find the right fuel, and looking to stay away from giant bowls of pasta, or the greasiness that comes with heavy options your body isn’t used to consuming, consider the following:

Start With Oatmeal

Upcoming endurance event looming or not, each morning, I start my day packing my bowl of oats with a mixture of naturally sugar-filled fruits, along with nuts and cacao nibs. Not only does this oatmeal help get my metabolism up and running, it gives me the energy I need to carry on throughout the entirety of my day. Here are a few ideas to help you craft your perfect oatmeal.

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Get Your Fill Of Quinoa

This wonder-seed and complete source of protein is a prime fuel source that does not weigh you down. Although quinoa readily takes the place of noodles to make for a hearty spaghetti dinner, in the spirit of springtime, I like to change things up and enjoy a lighter, fruit-infused quinoa salad. If you’re not yet sold on quinoa, as an alternative, consider incorporating white or brown rice into your dinner mix.

Snack Smart

Opt for a naturally sweet snack, like fruit, with a protein-filled sidekick, such as a nut butter, or even a blend of hummus that includes peanut butter. If you’d rather enjoy snack-time by sipping, spring for a fruit-filled smoothie.

Go For Spuds

Sweet or white potatoes packed with your toppings of choice make for a great carb-rich meal. I like to stuff my spuds with tempeh, corn, beans, quinoa, or any combination of these. If you’re looking to enjoy sweet spuds in a less traditional form, whip up these sweet potato and kale patties.

The most important thing to remember is that every single body is different. Ultimately, it’s best not to go crazy inviting foods or practices into your diet in a sudden swoop and expect your body to feel balanced and be fueled properly. I have come to find that above and beyond all the calculations and strategies, I do best simply running how I feel, and making sure my plant-based fueling practices are following my own lead.

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For more food for thought, here is an expanded look at what vegan athletes eat, when it comes to food as fuel.

Image source: Healthy Vegan Pomegranate Quinoa Porridge