Running: Runners and Carbs

Let’s use that exercise science degree!

Nutrition planning as a runner can sometimes be difficult. There is so much information out there and sometimes this information can seem extremely conflicting. However regardless of what you might have heard, carbohydrates are extremely important to your training and performance as a runner. Whether you know a lot or little about sports nutrition, it is important to understand your carbs. Your body will thank you for it.

When it comes to diets, carbohydrates often receive plenty of attention. With many popular diet plans – think the Atkin’s Diet – asking participants to cut carbs for their diets, it is not surprising that many of us are confused when it comes to eating carbs. It is important to remember that a diet that asks you to restrict one type of food from your diet is considered a fad diet. Fad diets may yield quick results, but the results are often short-lived once you go off of the diet.

Carbs and your body

Without a doubt, your brain is one of the most (if not the most) important organ in your body. To keep your brain alive and well, your brain requires a steady supply of fuel. This fuel comes in the form of carbohydrates and glucose. Without proper fuel, your brain might not function properly and you may find yourself susceptible to a wide-variety of health conditions. As a result, it is important to eat carbohydrates. Carbs, such as rice, paste and potatoes are known as complex carbohydrates. These carbs are broken down into monosaccharaides that they can be transported throughout your body via your blood.

It is important to remember that you do not need to continuously eat carbs in order to fuel your body. The body stores carbs for later use. As you are training, your body relies on stored internal glycogen to keep your legs moving. Without sufficient glycogen, you may find yourself struggling to run.

How important is glycogen?

Glycogen is very important for runners. Your body can store approximately 500g of carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. The breakdown includes 100g in the liver and 400g in the muscle. At one time, your muscles store enough glycogen to run 18 miles. As a result, glycogen is extremely important during endurance events.

If running a 5k or half marathon, changes are you will not run out of glycogen.

When should I consume carbs?

Appropriate timing of your carbohydrate intake is extremely important as a runner. This can help make your training sessions and races as successful as possible.

Immediately following exercise or training, your body secretes large amounts of enzymes known as glycogenase. This enzyme makes your muscles and liver highly receptive to absorbing as well as storing carbohydrates. As a result, consuming carbs after training can be extremely beneficial to your muscles as well as liver. A lack of carbs in your diet can leave your body feeling tired and sluggish.


2 thoughts on “Running: Runners and Carbs

  1. Nice post. As someone who’s trying to get better at running, this is good to know. I don’t understand how people can NOT eat carbs. I’d feel terrible!

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