In the book Going Higher: Oxygen, Man, and Mountains, the necessity of carb-loading before any highly strenuous, acutely physical activity is explained as, basically, the hoarding of glucose -- your body's fundamental energy source -- in order to create energy reserves. Much like animals gather and store food before the winter, "marathoners 'carbo-load' the night before a race...to top off their glycogen stores."
"When they 'hit the wall' several hours into the race, it may be at least partly because those glycogen stores are exhausted," the book continues.
We don't want that to happen to you, dear marathoners. So if you're one of the brave souls who's running the Chevron Houston Marathon this Sunday, here's our list of restaurants around town to store up those glycogen reserves without sacrificing taste.
Unless you really like the taste of goo, that is.
Remember: Choose foods with a low glycemic index, where possible, so that the energy is released into your bloodstream in a slow, steady rate. You don't want to shoot your entire carb wad in the first mile.
This trio of restaurants -- all owned by Vincent Mandola -- is offering an array of carb-loading options on their Marathon Menus. Pasta dishes are available, of course, including Federlini Primavera with fresh vegetables and Linguine Gamberi with shrimp and scallops. But meat-based dishes are on the menu, too, like Pollo Peter Joseph, a marinated chicken breast served with steamed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. Call 713-522-5120 for more information or to make reservations.
Ziggy's Bar & Grill 702 Main and 302 Fairview
Both of Ziggy's daily specials on Friday (today) and Saturday are excellent choices for carb-loading: Pomegranate-glazed pork with brown rice risotto and a citrus avocado salad is $13 today. And tomorrow, an 8-ounce local ribeye steak with chimichurri sauce and choice of two sides is only $14. We recommend the acorn squash and the brown rice as sides, or the garlic mashed potatoes if you're feeling sassy.
Piola 3201 Louisiana
As mentioned earlier today, Piola's all-you-can-eat gnocchi day falls on the 29th of each month -- perfect for January and any gnocchi-loving marathoners. The cost is $13.95 a person for unlimited bowls of gnocchi with a variety of different sauces like tomato sauce with fresh basil.
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This local Italian chain has plenty of possibilities on its Saturday brunch menu, including Farfalle alla Romana with sauteed chicken breast, peas, squash and zucchini and the catch of the day, served with garlic-leek mashed potatoes and steamed veggies.
D'Amico's 5510 Morningside
You really can't go wrong with anything on the pasta side of D'Amico's vast dinner menu. Personal favorites are the Mezzaluna -- half-moon-shaped pasta stuffed with smoked chicken and cheese -- and the wild mushroom-and-walnut-stuffed tortellini.
Where will you be carb-loading this weekend?