August 17, 2018
Do you know what causes our bodies to "hit the wall"? And is there anything we can do about it to avoid "bonking"?
The fact is we can train our body to better use fuel more efficiently so we can run around the "wall" and keep going further while feeling better. On top of our physical training runs, we can work on the nutritional side of our workouts through "fasting runs".
We know the body relies on carbohydrates to give us energy during training and racing. Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen, which is then used as fuel. But we’re only capable of storing so much glycogen. Once we burn through it, we are forced to rely on fat, which is a less efficient fuel source.
The idea behind fasting before the occasional run is to teach our bodies to burn fat more efficiently. And since we have a lot more available fuel in our bodies in the form of fat, training the body to use that fuel helps immensely with endurance and aerobic performance.
Running in the morning, along with some water, is the best time to do this. Typically, the longest time we go without food is while we're asleep. After an overnight fast, the glycogen stores will be low, forcing the body to burn fat.
By doing this fast sporadically, our body becomes better at utilizing fat as a source of fuel. In addition, some studies have shown that not only do fasted runs potentially help you burn fat for longer, thereby pushing back the point at which you switch to burning carbs, they also increase your carb stores for when that point is reached.
The best time to do these fasted runs is on slow, easy recovery days. Run when the body’s reliance on glycogen is low and the ability to use fat as fuel is high.
It's important to do glycogen-loaded runs because that’s what you’ll do on race day. Fasted runs should be reserved for some of the slower efforts, while high-intensity workouts should be approached with plenty of fuel storage. Just like any other training variable, more repetition yields more efficiency, but overuse can lead to burnout.
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