Monday, July 16, 2012

Un-fueling for the fat-burning long run.

When it comes to running, I read pretty much anything I can lay my eyes on. Books, magazines, web sites. I'm drawn to new research and studies, intrigued by elite training plans. I take it all in and hope to digest it, work it over, and use it to improve my running.

Recently, I've been making an effort to improve my body's ability to burn fat as fuel and to run well in a low-glycogen state. I've read about ways to do this, and the benefits of training your body this way, in several books and articles including this article on the McMillan web site and this article from Running Times. (I've also read about it in Advanced Marathoning and Brain Training for Runners -- two excellent books for runners.)

Here's some interesting information from the Running Times article:

At the Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism in Denmark, Bente Klarlund Pedersen, M.D., DMSc, had subjects exercise one leg once daily, and the other leg twice every other day, but in a glycogen-depleted state. The total amount of training was equal for both legs, but after 10 weeks, the glycogen-denied leg increased its endurance by 90 percent.

I could certainly go for some of that increased endurance!

So, yesterday, I applied what I've learned. Instead of eating an English muffin with peanut butter an hour before my run and then a handful jelly beans right before, I had an English muffin with just a little regular butter. No peanut butter, no jelly beans. And, instead of taking a gel during the run, I carried watered-down Gatorade.

This is me weaning myself off the carbs.

I did, however, carry a gel with me -- just in case I started to feel off or if we made a wrong turn (it happens!) and had to add some unexpected miles to our run. I didn't need it.

I felt absolutely fine and full of (enough) energy. That run was a good test for lower carb consumption because it was a) hot b) super-humid and c) a really hilly course. If I can handle a hot, humid, hilly run with lower carbs, I can continue to reduce my consumption and reap the benefits come race day!

At least, that's the plan.

I'll keep you posted on Operation Un-fueling over the course of my half-marathon training!

Hope everyone had a good weekend!

~ Felice


Running Junkie said...

So are you still planning to eat the same total number of carbs? Or to cut back in your diet overall??

I have been steadily cutting back (it's easier now since I discovered a wheat, corn, peanut and soy allergy and I try my best to stay away from sweets).

If you used this method in your training, then used a gel during a race, would you be even better?

The Happy Runner said...

The rest of my diet will be about the same. I will make sure that I refuel well.

The idea is that, yes, you take in more carbs before and during the race so your body has lots of energy to draw on -- both the fat that you've trained it to use and the carbs that you are giving it on race day. We'll see if it works!

quix said...

I run mostly unfueled (as much as I can without dying) - nuun for electrolytes, a very small breakfast, and no gels unless I go over about 12 miles (that seems to be my wall). Oddly enough, I rarely get hungry during a run, but I start feeling major amounts of despair if I am too unfueled.

Race day, I take gatorade at each water stop and suck down the nutrition at a normal prescribed pace, and also ingest caffeine (which I don't normally do), so I'm usually flying high as a kite on all sorts of CARBS!!!!

I have yet to do a marathon, but to get through the first season of training runs so I think I'll try a more traditional fueling strategy (every 45 mins or so).

Christina said...

I've never heard of that but it's really interesting to try. If it helps with endurance I'm ALL for it!

macnic said...

I have trained myself to be able to run about 2h10m without any thing other than water, but I always eat 1-2 toast with PB (and maybe a banana) before my run. I did this my entire training cycle for the marathon and let me tell you, it was super strange to take that first gel at 8k/45 min, but hey - it worked, I never boinked AND I lost 20 lbs!

Paulette said...

I'm curious about this, looking forward to hearing more. I'm hypoglycemic so not sure if I could actually try this often/safely.

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