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'26.2' - The Marathon Training Website:

Maximizing Energy For Endurance

If you like to participate in events like marathons, triathlons and long distance cycling you know how important it is to manage the energy reserves stored in your body. This is not an easy thing to do, quite simply because on any given day we don’t really know how much energy we do have…
 

How we store energy
The food we eat every day provides us with the energy we need for our regular daily activities. When we consume complex carbohydrates like bread, pasta and rice the body converts them to glucose, which is used to provide the energy we need. The excess glucose not needed immediately is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles.

How we use energy
When we exercise, the body uses up its available energy quite quickly. It then draws on the stored glycogen reserves, which is what helps to keep us going in endurance events.

Unfortunately the body’s ability to store glycogen is limited. As glycogen stores decrease the body turns to stored fat for it’s extra energy. Converting this fat into energy takes some time and it is not as efficient as glycogen. This is one reason why athletes tend to slow down in the later stages of the event, especially if they are trying to burn energy at a faster rate than it can be produced.
 

 

 

How far can we go?
An athlete weighting 150 lbs can store approximately 1800 calories as glycogen. This is good for 2 – 3 hours of effort depending on the intensity. Many marathoners for example, hit the wall around miles 18 – 20 because they have depleted their glycogen reserves.

This is why training is so important - it conditions the muscles to store more glycogen. Endurance training also accustoms the body to burning fat for energy as the available glycogen decreases.

Nutrition supplements
Many athletes use power bar bars and gels to supplement their energy stores during an event. Depending on the sport, these may or may not work for you. As a runner I have a hard time digesting things like power bars or even gels during a marathon. You certainly need to try these out during your training, before using them in a race.
 

 

 

Maximize Your Energy Reserve
No product can act as a substitute for proper training. If you have missed some key workouts don’t expect to be able to do your best just by taking nutritional supplements.

Experienced endurance athletes know how to pace themselves properly.

  • Go out too fast at the start and you will inevitably use up your available energy long before the finish line!

  • Charging up hills will have the same result

  • Hot weather will really exhaust your energy supplies, unless you have trained under similar conditions

  • Under-hydration will also sap your energy - slow down for that drink!

If you have done the training, and you use an appropriate nutritional supplement during the event, you should be able to achieve your best on that particular day.

 

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