One always hears of cases where a person trained for months but could never make their goal or their time only because they just didn’t eat right. However many runners are always in the predicament of the midrun snack. Is it necessary to consume solid foods while running? How do you compensate for the large amount of calories that you burn while running? Runner’s World says that though your body is burning calories while you are on the run, the purpose of taking in midrun nutrition is more about keeping your blood sugar and glycogen levels rather than replacing lost calories. And even if you do stock up on your calories, it would be difficult to do so if your GI system is not operating at full capacity during this activity.
The main form of fuel that our bodies burn is a blend of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) and stored fat. And a pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories! Which is more than enough energy needed to run a marathon. But the problem with using fat as fuel is accessibility and hence you end up using more of glycogen. But if your glycogen levels are being depleted for every kilometer you run, you might hit “the wall” if you don’t replenish them at the right time.
Running out of glycogen is the same as running out of gas for your car. Since your glycogen reserves have been used up, accessing fat as fuel becomes crucial. Another fascinating mechanism of the body is that it doesn’t just use each energy reserve separately, but depending on the intensity of the run and the duration, it uses both glycogen and fat in varied ratios. The lower the intensity and the longer the run, the higher the percentage of fat is used for fuel, and the lower the percentage of glycogen. The higher the intensity and the shorter the run, the higher the percentage of glycogen is used for fuel.
Train Your Body
When you are training for a marathon, your entire run should comprise of slow paced long runs and shorter fast paced runs. With endurance training, you can increase the rate at which fat is burned, which lets you conserve your glycogen. When you get into a habit of long run days, not only will you be building your endurance but the slower pace will increase fat metabolism. While your body uses a combination of fat and glycogen, your brain on the other hand can only use glucose for fuel. Taking a swig of energy drinks and spitting it out can be effective to perk up your brain with the right amount of carbs in your mouth.
When it comes to overall nutrition, it really depends from runner to runner. Your training period is the perfect time to experiment, so by the race day you are fully aware of what works for you and how much energy you actually need. Keeping your blood sugar levels up is important during a run but consuming too much food midrun can cause GI issues. During training, start off with minimal nutrition and gradually increase your supplementation to find the right balance for you.
According to Runner’s World, for a 60 minute or longer run consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate – an energy gel, a handful of chews, a small pack of raisins – every 30 to 45 minutes. Instead of washing down your food with energy drinks, take a few sips of water so that you don’t throw your GI system into a tizzy. If you don’t find the time alternate between solid food and sports drink if you don’t have the time.