7 Carb-Filled Recipes to Get You Ready for a Race

Many races and workouts require that athletes carbo-load, otherwise known as eating large amounts of food full of carbohydrates in order to saturate the body’s carbohydrate stores. If you’re lucky enough to require this kind of food event on top of your fitness event, this list of recipes is for you. While it is essential to maximize your glycogen stores before a big race or workout, it’s also important that you do it the right way, and not consume so much bread and cheese that you end up hurting yourself in the end. Check out these seven carb-filled recipes that will fill your stores without weighing you down. Eat these dishes the night before a big race and enjoy the wholesome energy you’ll have all morning.

1. Pasta Primavera

pasta, bacon, vegetables

Pasta primavera | Source: iStock

Pasta is the quintessential comfort food you can eat before a race. We even bet that after one bite of this pasta primavera featured on Food Network, you’ll find motivation to sign up for a few more. This recipe is the perfect one to cook up the night before a big event, as unlike other pasta primavera formulas, it goes light on the heavy cream but still tastes indulgent thanks to the Parmesan cheese. A handful of veggies also gets prepped with this dish, and don’t forget your farfalle, or bowtie pasta.


  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence
  • 1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450° Fahrenheit.

On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes, about 20 minutes total.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for about eight minutes or until al dente (tender but still firm to the bite). Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

2. Pasta with Sausage, Cauliflower, and Breadcrumbs

tomato rigatoni with cheese, pasta

Pasta | Source: iStock

Another pasta recipe you can try comes from The Kitchn. The recipe is for pasta with cauliflower, sausage, and breadcrumbs, and it packs in the carbs while also tucking in some protein. Serving 8 to 10, this dish feeds a crowd or can be kept as leftovers. Enjoy a steaming plate of this pasta before a race and saturate your carb stores.


  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot or small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small, bite-sized florets
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound pasta, any shape
  • ½ to ¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko
  • ½ pound mozzarella, cut or shredded into small pieces

Directions: Start a large pot of water and boil over high heat for the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot or onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks.

When the sausage is almost cooked through, add the cauliflower, salt and pepper. Push the cauliflower down into the pan so the florets have as much surface contact with the pan as possible. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower begins to brown slightly. If the pan is very dry, depending on how much fat is in your sausage, you can add another splash of oil.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and pour in the tomatoes. Scrape any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, boil the pasta. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and set aside. Also, spread the breadcrumbs onto a cookie sheet and run under the broiler to lightly toast; alternatively, brown the breadcrumbs in a dry skillet.

If your pan is big enough, transfer the pasta to the pan with the sauce once the cauliflower is tender. Otherwise, combine everything in a large serving bowl. Toss together, then add the cubes of mozzarella. Top each serving with bread crumbs, reserving extra breadcrumbs for leftovers.

3. Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs | Source: Thinkstock

Something important to remember is that before you engage in a big fitness event, workout, or race, you shouldn’t eat anything out of the ordinary, putting your digestive system at risk for any disagreement. That’s why consuming the tried-and-true foods you know your body finds palatable and easily digestible is encouraged. A comforting dish that many consumers feel confident about eating is old-fashioned spaghetti and meatballs. Get your carbs from the pasta, your protein from the meat, and your joy from the classic combination. Eating Well has a recipe for the good stuff that is fool-proof. Prepare this the night before your event and pregame with carbs.



  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces lean (90% or leaner) ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork or Italian pork sausage
  • 8 ounces ground veal

Sauce and Spaghetti:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

Directions: To prepare meatballs: Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs, ½ cup onion, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Add beef, pork and veal; gently mix until combined. Using ¼ cup for each, make 16 meatballs and place in a 6-quart slow cooker.

To prepare sauce & spaghetti: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup of onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add wine and boil for 1 minute. Add crushed and diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Pour the sauce over the meatballs.

Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours.

30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Spoon any fat off the sauce; add oregano. Serve the meatballs and sauce over the spaghetti with extra Parmesan, if desired.

4. Chicken Rice Bowl

Peas, Couscous, Rice

Chicken and rice | Source: iStock

Another carb that is advantageous to consume before a big workout is rice. Rice is easy to digest and something you can eat a lot of before feeling uncomfortably full. The best pre-race meals are ones that are high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat, and this chicken rice bowl from Taste of Home fits that bill. It’s a comforting meal that only takes 10 minutes to make, and will leave you feeling energized. Whether you cook your rice from the raw variety or enlist a shortcut and go for the quick kind, this dinner will satisfy both your stomach and your taste buds, sufficiently preparing you for what’s ahead.


  • 1 cup uncooked Minute Rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup chopped frozen green pepper, thawed
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 package ready-to-use grilled chicken breast strips
  • ½ cup frozen corn, thawed
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions: Cook the rice in broth according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the green pepper and onion in oil for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in the chicken, corn, peas, basil and sage. Cook, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes over medium heat or until heated through. Stir in the rice, salt and pepper.

5. Skillet Sausage and Rice

Stirring, rice, vegetables, pan, cooking

Rice and vegetables in a skillet | Source: iStock

Here’s another rice recipe for your cooking arsenal. This skillet sausage and rice from Southern Living is a good choice for a pre-race meal because it is free of dairy and also goes light on the fiber. It’s also simple to make and can be prepared all in one skillet. The smoky sausage and brown rice come together in a chicken broth, get a fresh parsley garnish, and then it’s bon appetit. Southern Living’s recipe makes 4 to 6 servings, so feel free to fill up.


  • 1 package smoked sausage
  • 1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 bags quick-cooking brown rice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley

Directions: Cut sausage into ½-inch slices. Sauté in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove sausage slices, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet.

Add bell pepper, onion, and garlic to skillet, and sauté over medium-high heat for 4 minutes or until tender. Add chicken broth, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet, and bring to a boil. Remove rice from cooking bag; add rice, sausage, salt, and pepper to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 5 minutes or until rice is tender. Garnish, if desired.

6. Whole Wheat Pasta with Pesto

Pesto Pasta, noodles

Pasta with pesto | Source: iStock

Pasta with pesto is a dish that every athlete can enjoy, and this recipe for whole wheat pasta with pesto from Mediterranean Book is especially ideal pre-race because it’s made with whole wheat pasta, a slow-digesting carb. Eating this meal the night before the race will guarantee that your energy stores aren’t empty come exercise-time, and you can still feel good about eating a big plate of carbs, as this whole wheat pasta is made from whole grain. Serve up your pasta with fresh homemade pesto and feel proud of the healthy pre-race feast you’ve prepared. The dinner takes only 10 minutes to make and serves 4.


  • ¾ cups basil leaves
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of peeled garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces of whole wheat pasta

Directions: In a food processor, add your fresh basil leaves, the ½ cup Parmesan, garlic and pine nuts along with the salt and pepper. Run the machine at medium speed while drizzling in your olive oil as the ingredients are blending to create a smooth paste. Be sure to run your food processor until the ingredients are entirely blended.

Boil water and cook your pasta until it is prepared al dente. After your pasta has cooked to the right firmness, drain it in a colander and pour the pasta into a medium size serving bowl. Scoop your pesto sauce over the pasta and allow it to soak.

7. Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

Sweet potatoes, peeled

Sweet potatoes | Source: iStock

And lastly, if you’re partial to sweet potatoes rather than white, try this sweet potato chicken casserole from Once a Month Meals. The recipe is gluten and dairy-free, meaning you can eat this dish without any fear of digestive issues. Sweet potatoes are a great food to eat pre-race day because they are full of slow-digesting carbs which provide you a slow spike to your blood glucose over a long period of time. This is ideal when you have a long workout or race on tap as you can anticipate a slow release of consistent energy. Get on board with this casserole and enjoy the 4 servings this recipe provides to the fullest.


  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1¼ cups dice Onion
  • 1 teaspoon mince Garlic, Cloves
  • 4 cups peeled and diced Sweet Potato
  • 1 cup dice Carrot
  • 3¾ cups dice Chicken, Boneless Breasts
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth/Stock
  • 1 cup White Wine
  • ¼ cups Coconut Milk, Canned

Directions: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until golden. Add sweet potatoes and carrot. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes until lightly browned. Move vegetables to the edges of the pan and put chicken into center of skillet. Cook chicken until seared on all sides. Sprinkle chicken with corn starch, then stir in. Gradually whisk in a bit of chicken stock until all is added. Scrape any bits from the bottom of pan while whisking. Add wine and coconut milk and mix well. Put mixture into an oiled baking dish. Bake at 400° Fahrenheit for 1 hour or until heated through and bubbly.

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