Where to Carbo-Load Before the Houston Marathon

By Amber Ambrose  |  January 16, 2014

Running the Houston Marathon this weekend? (Or pretending to so you have an excuse to load up on carbs)? First of all, good luck! Secondly, use this excuse to down calories you'll actually burn running those 26.2 miles. Here are just a few ideas - traditional and non - for storing up energy the day or two before the race, aka, stuff your face with pasta, rice, bread and any other form of carbohydrates.

If gourmet housemade pastas are what fuel your running fire, try any one of the nine options on Paulie's menu. However, the rich fettuccine Alfredo and the creamy canestri alla fungi might not be your best bets. Try the canestri with olive oil, garlic, broccoli and parmesan instead.

Super H Mart's Food Court 
The food court of an Asian grocery store might seem like an odd choice, but consider the vast amount of noodle and rice dishes available. We highly recommend the bibimbap from Bibijo Express - a hot stone bowl filled with rice, vegetables and an egg for protein - though there are plenty of options available. Grab some treats for after the race while you're there; mochi ice cream is readily available in the frozen section.

Giacomo's Cibo E Vino 
More fresh pastas await at Giacomo's. Just a sampling: pappardelle al Telefono with garlic, olive oil, cherry tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella and tortellini al panna with tomato sauce. For added protein, try the linguine Giacomo with shrimp, sundried tomatoes, fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, shallots, lemon and arugula.

Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet 
A little buffet action might be your best bet if you really want to fill up on carbs. Go for the healthy Mediterranean fare at Dimassi's if quantity is the goal. Carbs to choose from include fresh pitas, tabbouleh, rice and potatoes, plus lean proteins like baked fish, chicken kebabs and hummus. Add in plenty of veggies and you have your pre-race meal planned.

This old-school Italian has been known to host a marathon club or two the night before the big race. Plenty of pastas - like the pappardelle with veal Bolognese, ziti with chanterelles and chickpeas and the classic spaghetti marinara with meatballs or meat sauce - are great ways to load up on carbs.

Ruggles Green 
There are so many options at this healthy and green eatery. Protein, creativity and carbs abound in their famous "hempanadas" made with high-protein hemp flour, wheat flour and stuffed with raisins, beef, cheese and cilantro. Or try loading up on calories with their quinoa mac 'n' cheese or the quinoa linguini and turkey meatballs.

Latin Bites 
Looking for a meal with a little extra panache? Try the volcano rice at Latin Bites for an upscale experience. The new menu item is prepared tableside and filled with fresh vegetables like snow peas, zucchini and carrots as well as pork, Chinese sausage and finished with an egg yolk. Lomo saltado is also a rice-heavy option and the chaufa de quinoa offers something to bulk up the calorie count along with the protein.

Cafe TH 
Thankfully, this EaDo cafe is open on Friday evenings and Saturdays for lunch - just in time for the big pre-race meal. There are many ways to load up here, but for starters try a large banh mi ($3.24 for a 9-inch) and move on to the vermicelli or rice plates. There are vegan and vegetarian options as well.

The elegant Four Seasons restaurant always offers pasta specials the evening before the marathon and this year is no different. On the menu are options that include whole wheat penne with roasted vegetables and tomato sauce, a gluten-free pasta with Bolognese, meatballs and penne pasta and a seafood pasta with garlic marinara. Many out-of-town race participants will be staying there, so reservations are recommended (713-276-4700).

Spaghetti Western 
This kitschy Italian spot is always a popular stop for running clubs to chow down before the big day. With 17 pasta options, it's an easy place to fill up. The enchiladas Italianas is a unique dish with lots of carbs; two cannelloni are stuffed with chicken, spinach, sundried tomatoes, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and served on top of even more pasta. (Ask for the chipotle Alfredo sauce on the side if you're avoiding dairy.)