One of the most important factors in a successful running event or training run (or any endurance sport for that matter) is fueling your body for success. One of the most common ways to prepare for that race day success is a process known as carbo-loading. This is basically loading up on carbs before race day in order to fill your body with the glycogen that it needs for energy during your run. In my experience, this has always been one of the more misunderstood aspects of nutrition for novice and experienced runners alike.
With that in mind, I sat down with author and fitness coach Luke Sniewski to discuss the subject for the Ojio Sport Fitbusters video series.
I recently cut a juice fast short by a day or so in order to make sure I was ready to continue my marathon training, but I knew that three regular meals was hardly enough food to fuel a 17 mile run. Given this fact, I decided to turn my regularly scheduled training run into an experiment in carb depletion, and ultimately a lesson in carbo-loading.
Getting by with a little help from some friends
Carb depletion is what happens when your body runs out of the glycogen it needs to convert into energy. Normally when this happens, a runner is said to be bonking. Bonking is the point at which your body simply refuses to work because it does not have the necessary fuel to operate properly. The visual of bonking can be pretty disturbing, an athlete whose arms and legs refuse to respond properly to the brain’s commands, instead stutter and flail as he or she struggles even to remain standing. This is something that all athletes want to avoid for obvious reasons, but for me, I was curious just how far I could get in a carb depleted state.
For me, all the advanced warnings and encouragements I received were true, Once you get to day 3 of your juice fast, you are home free. I woke up on the morning of the third day and felt good. I wasn’t hungry, my headache from the minor caffeine withdrawals was hardly noticeable, and I didn’t really feel too tired. As predicted, I was doing well. Day 3 for me proceeded much the way the first two days had. I had four juices spaced out across the day starting first thing in the morning and ending around 5pm or so. I made broth for dinner again, only this time I added a tomato and some red cabbage for extra flavor.
I felt like I crossed the threshold from challenging side of the juice fast to the easier, more enjoyable side.
As successful as our first day on the juice fast had been, day two turned out to be quite the opposite. Most people will tell you that days 2 and 3 are the hardest of any juice fast, but once you get through them, it gets a whole lot easier. The challenge, however, is getting through them. Breakfast juice featured kale, cucumber, red cabbage, lemon, and apple, and was definitely a little more on the savory side. Lunch on day two featured more greens with apple and pineapple followed by a carrot and beet juice combination. Thats right, two “lunches.”
One of the things about me that is important to keep in mind is that I have never been a three square meals type of person. I usually eat about five meals during the day starting with a small breakfast followed by a late morning snack of fruit and nuts. Lunch is also usually small and is followed by a late afternoon snack that depends on what kind of activity I have planned for the evening. An hour of cross training requires a meal replacement bar where as a 30-60 minute, moderately paced run requires something smaller like granola. Finally, dinner is usually a smaller meal portion as well.
A few weeks ago my fiancé and I decided to try a juice fast for the first time. This little endeavor was intentionally scheduled right before a nice vacation week. We had a couple different reasons for trying this, from dropping a couple pounds, to cleansing, to rebooting our nutrition in advance of a little vaca-style food frolicking. Personally, I was also looking forward to kicking my morning coffee habit as well.
We started our juicing adventure shopping for a grocery cart full of fruits and vegetables, including apples, carrots, lemons, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, pears, pineapples, mangos, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, kale, parsley, tomatoes, onion, ginger, kiwis, and red cabbage. All told, we spent about $80, with the idea of juicing for two people for four days. That math worked out pretty good as we would have just enough fruits and vegetables to get us to the finish line, spending just $10 per person per day.