Carbs, Carbs, Carbs!

Do you ever get that dreaded ‘dead leg’ feeling while you’re running? Anyone who has experienced it knows exactly what I mean. Your legs feel like lead, there is no bounce to your step, and it takes immense effort to keep moving forward. This is commonly due to a lack of carbs.

Carbs get a bad rap these days in some circles but the reality is, carbs are our body’s first choice when it comes to fueling exercise. We can burn fat to fuel our exercise as well (and we do), especially at low intensity, but once the intensity starts to ramp up we rely more and more on carbs for fuel. We store carbs in our muscles as glycogen. Generally, we have enough glycogen stored in our muscles to fuel about 2 hours of easy to moderate-intensity exercise. Ramp up the intensity and you can say goodbye to these energy stores even faster. Once it’s gone, if we’re not refueling during our training, we bonk. We hit the wall! Our bodies can still function and keep us moving forward because we can burn fat for energy as well but this is a slower and less-efficient form of metabolism. So we go slower and we feel lethargic. The dead-leg feeling can be a sign that we aren’t eating enough carbs before and/or during exercise and maybe even throughout the day.

A general rule of thumb is 30-60 g of carbohydrates per hour for runs and races between 1-2 hours and 60-80 g of carbohydrates per hour for runs and races 2 hours or more. Sometimes runners avoid eating before or during runs because they want to lose weight. The reality is if we don’t have enough fuel on board (either stored as glycogen or from fueling during exercise) our bodies will find the fuel somewhere else and that means breaking down our precious muscle to keep our bodies functioning and moving forward. Few of us want to lose muscle! So keep the carbs coming and avoid hitting the wall and/or the dreaded ‘dead-leg’ feeling. Keep on keeping on runners!

Check out this pot of carbs freshly harvested from our honey bees!

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