Preparation For Running

 

A Great Energy Question!

Hello,

Love your web site and the down to earth easy to understand info.

I have a question Im hoping you can help me with.
In a magazine it said:

After a few minutes running "Now your system switches to the lowest-maintenance way of making ATP: aerobic glycolysis. Here, a combo of oxygen, glycogen (from breakfast and last night's linguine), lactic acid, and fat stores feed your muscles. The body can run this way for hours; in fact, it uses this form of ATP for 99 percent of all activity."

I've heard this before and what Im curious about is is this is the case, why do long distance runner still need to take in carbs along the way?

Regards
Steve

 

Hi Steve 
You asked a great question and I agree it can all be a little confusing
The average Aussie eats enough carbs daily to fuel a marathon runner’s energy levels, but the majority of them are not marathon runners! Hence, Australia’s obesity crisis. Carbs are great, and they make up the bulk of our diet, but if we are not expending the energy that they give you daily, they just stay on you and gradually cause weight gain
 
When it comes to me needing to carb load for a marathon, I have a little laugh as I feel most of my life is carb loading, I eat lots of them anyway, however when I am carb loading for an event I do try to concentrate on eating good carbs and getting the right fluids in as well
 
So you ask me if we are all carbed up, then why are we all drinking Gatorades, eating gels and energy bars whilst we are running
There is a difference in the way we use our energy.
 
I will give you my example. I had never drank an energy drink when I lived in Victoria (44 years), I was a runner and had run long distance events, but I never bothered, didn’t feel I needed them. I arrived to live in QLD the week during Christmas and New Year, and was very excited about being able to run in the nice warm weather. My first run was about 10km on a flat scenic surface in Noosa and I got back dead, or thought I was dying. I wasn’t worried too much, because I had had a few busy weeks with the moving and just thought it had all caught up with me, However, every time I went for a run, I felt flat, heavy and zapped, it continue to get worse until the point I was walking part of my 10km (unheard of, I had just run a marathon previous to moving up here) and I felt I was just getting weaker and slower. I began to get worried, and thought I was sick. At the time I was studying fitness, so I decided to use myself as and experiment of how to get myself out of this hole in my running. I explored the nutrition side and decided to have a sports drink after I had run. I am a sweater, always have been, however in Victoria I would build up to a sweat, near the end of my run. In QLD I would break into a sweat tying up my shoelaces at the start and within 5 mins of running, it was like someone had turned a tap on over my head and forgot to turn it off! My energy was leaving via my sweat, just dripping out of me. I soon realised that it wasn’t just a hydration thing but it was a loss of energy through heavy sweating. After just a few runs and drinking the energy drinks I soon started to feel better, had more energy and once again got my running, back on tract. I still sweated buckets but never felt like I couldn’t finish. Now this had nothing to do with me being low on carbs, everyone who knows me knows I eat like a horse!
 
When you sweat it the body’s way to cool you down, but in that sweat, like Elvis, lots of other things leave the building. Electrolytes, salts, sugars, potassium, magnesium,  are an important part of our energy system, and all come out with the sweat as well. Our bodies are so delicately balanced that when we suddenly turn on the tap like I did running and all the electrolytes start pouring out the body has a little panic attack. The basic driving force in our bodies is survival, so as soon as it is under threat, the body goes into rescue mode, its theory being if I am losing all this energy stuff very quickly, I need to shut down a bit, save some energy, so we get weaker and feel the need to stop, a bit like hitting the wall in a marathon.
 
When we are doing exercise over a period of time, the body really gets pumping. Heart, lungs, muscles all start working over time, they heat up and rapidly expend energy, it is so quick it can take the body by surprise, the way to stop the body from shutting down is to let it know that there is still energy to be had, so drinking the sport drinks and taking the gels or any other energy food it tells the body its ok, energy is being replaced whilst we are losing it.

We don’t only lose energy in sweat (so if you are not a big sweater you still may suffer) we also lose it through our breath. We breathe a lot heavier and a lot faster, as runners we don’t tend to breathe deeply, so we are blowing out a lot of hot air with energy in it and only taking in short little breaths of oxygen, once again losing more energy than we are taking in.
 
I guess what I am saying is that our carbs are still in our bodies and still fuelling most of our systems in the background, but any rapid change in energy (like running or other heavy exercise) causes an immediate reaction and usually needs a quick treatment for your body to feel it can work with the energy in, energy out principle.
 
Another recent example of energy balance occurred just last week for me. After Las Vega, I took my four Children (2 adult boys and two teenage girls) to the Grand Canyon. I had some drinks in a back pack and I also threw in a lot to the energy stuff  I got in my sample bags from the Las Vegas marathon (they give you some great things) There were gels and energy bars and gel lollies, I thought they may come in handy and they are light to carry, as naturally being the mother I was the pack horse or as in the grand canyon pack donkey! Going down for a couple of hours was fine, however when we turned to come out, all up hill for three hours, my girls started to suffer, Their breathing especially was laboured, and it is a very different air there, that even their faces were going purple and their hands were tingling, and they were telling me they couldn’t go on. Now donkey I am, but there was no way I was a canyon mule! However, I could see they were getting distressed. Now there is no way they were depleted in carbs, they eat like their mother, But is was a rapid drop in energy levels and difficultly in breathing, we sat for a bit and them I told them to chew slowly on the gel lollies, the difference was amazing, even they were impressed. We all got out of the canyon on the gels and energy bars!
 
What to take in during sport is another complex process and I just say to my runners its trial and era, do what suits you. I like the drinks because I feel I also get fluids as well, some people get a stitch if they drink too much. I have just started using gels and gu’s in big events and I think they are great, but I need to have a drink close by as I hate the after taste in the mouth, Some people like just the basics like a  good old fashioned bananas or jelly beans, I’ve know some to take a tablespoon of honey, whatever allows you to keep running and gives you a little boost is Ok.
 
Now you may also feel you dont need anything when you run, you may feel fine. That's great, as I said I ran for over 20 years without the need to ever take anything along the way besides water. So I say listen to your body and act on what it tells you. . However, if you do get the sudden feel of weakness or know that your energy is getting zapped you may want to explore taking something along the way
 
I hope  this helps.
All the best with your running and keep following Lazy Runner
Marie

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