Continuing on the talk of carbohydrates and their importance in performance, I wanted to share a pretty amazing video showcasing what happens when someone ‘hits the wall’. I’m sure you have heard of this term before. Has anyone experienced this? I can’t say I have had anything like this happen, but there have been a few times during an intense day of dance practice, competition or dance camp where I felt pretty shaky even after eating a substantial meal and hydrating. Sometimes it just isn’t enough and our bodies say . . . I don’t think so.
High intensity aerobic exercise for 1 hour can decrease liver glycogen by about 55%, and at 2 hours it can almost completely deplete stores. So how can those crazy people do events that last 6 hours or more? It most certainly has a large part to do with their intense training and mental determination, but it mostly has a lot to do with their nutritional strategy/timing and maintaining blood glucose to fuel the body.
I’m not sure what Julie’s nutrition strategy was throughout this Ironman race, and she may even have been consistent with her fuel. It would be really interesting to see what she did eat/drink before and during this race. Even though she may have been taking in carbohydrate and fluid, at the end of an intense race like an ironman, sometimes the body cannot take in energy and process it fast enough to fuel the muscles to function. In the case of ‘hitting the wall’, the muscles just stop working, as in this video below. Blood glucose concentration eventually falls because liver glycogen depletes, and the exercising muscles continue to break down the available blood glucose. This is a recipe for disaster and why it is so important to make sure those glycogen stores are nice and stocked and blood glucose is maintained. It is just sad and amazing to watch at the same time. . .
There are so many different carbohydrate fuels to choose from during an event, from bars, to gels and drinks. It’s really about finding what works best for you. I’m no super endurance athlete by any means, but I do like to experiment with different products to see how I like them. If I get asked about a certain product I want to make sure I’ve at least heard about it. I think my favorites so far are the Luna Moon gummies. I don’t like the gels that much at all. You also don’t really need to buy all the recovery powders and bars, which can be expensive, if you are getting enough quality nutrition. These are nice because they are convenient and easy to use, especially for those who need the extra kcals. I just like to experiment :)
Gatorade Sports Science Institute has a neat site with some great research on hydration, sports nutrition and other topics.
Have you ever experienced hitting the wall, or know anyone that has?
I hope everyone is having a good weekend! I’ve had some pretty good eats so far and will share with the weekend recap :)