Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hitting the Wall

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. 

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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 :)

13 comments:

balancejoyanddelicias said...

I watched the video and I felt really bad... why someone would hurt herself that way? I admire her determination and willpower... but why push yourself to that limit? at the end.... exercising should do good to us instead of harm.
anyway...thanks for sharing her story with us, to remind us how important is to take care of us and avoid hitting the wall.

peanutbutterbliss said...

wow I totally love your blog :) this is a great post because I think its important to talk about how necessary carbs are for any form of exercise.

i've never hit the wall..and hope it never happens!

MelissaNibbles said...

Wow. That video was scary. Her determination blew me away.

The longest I've run yet is 7 miles and I usually run it after drinking a cup of coffee in the morning. I can't run with anything in my stomach. When my mileage increases, I'll have to start refueling though. I've heard of people using gummy bears and I think the Luna ones you mentioned sound like a good option too.
Thanks for this post. It made me realize I need to start researching products.

Kelly said...

Wow, I've heard of hitting a wall but never seen it happen or had it happen to me (or ever done anything at all that would ever cause it to happen haha). That video was amazing to watch. Terribly sad at the same time...

*Naomi* said...

thanks for visiting my blog! Like i said, I LOVE yours!!

I have never experienced hitting a wall becayse I am not an endurance athlete but I do know people who have and they always carry on them GU or a banana or energy bar of somesort to avoid

Nicole M., MS, RD, LD said...

I've run 2 marathons and my first was THE best experience (didn't hit the wall) that I registered to run the Chicago Marathon again 2 years later. Well, that race was a completely different story. I was having all sorts of GI upset and was just extremely sluggish from the start. I did not fuel properly during the race, and I "hit the wall" right before mile marker 18, which is a very common place to hit. While I never technically stopped running form, my pace was down to a near shuffle jog and my face read agony. My parents and husband saw me around mile 20 looking this way, and my mom nearly made me stop. 6.2 miles, however, was not keeping me from my goal of finishing. Needless to say, it was not a phenomenal time (just over 5 hours), but still respectable. I've conceded that my PR (4:07:09) will never be surpassed and that sticking with 1/2-mary's may be the best route. Growing up in Chicago, however, I'd like to go back to watch the Chicago Marathon as often as possible...it brings tears to my eyes just seeing the masses in pursuit of such a prestigious accomplishment.

As for recovery products, my tried and true were Power Bar Gels. I also kept a huge supply of Gu on hand, and still have some of my reserves at my parent's house. I did really well with gels as directed with supplemental Gatorade every 2-3 miles at hydration stations.

Great post!

The Candid RD said...

I'll admit, I've probably NEVER exercised any longer than 90 minutes at a time, unless you count sports practice, but even then we get breaks!! I have therefore never "hit the wall" but I can imagine that being a very scary experience. I'm wondering why she didn't grab a quick power bar? Do you think she was just so exhausted she didn't even have an appetite? Probably, or her mouth was really dry..who knows. Thanks for sharing this, and your product reviews!

Elina said...

Whoa, that video is scary. Poor woman! I have experienced a bit of a shaky feeling while on a long run before but my muscles never gave in like that (I also carry some shot blocks with me for such occasions).

Astra Libris said...

Thank you so much for the incredible information! A good friend of mine is a marathon runner, and I've been passing along your posts to him - both he and I appreciate the incredible wealth of info!

Your post brought back some memories - I haven't done long-term exercise for a while (just "regular length" exercise for me lately :-p), but I do remember hitting the wall 2 times back when I was riding horses - in both cases I'd been riding for over 8 hours, and all of a sudden there was just this terrifying feeling of not being able to move anymore. In both cases I was very, very lucky - I had just finished my round and crossed through the timers when "the wall" hit me, so I was able to just pray the horse wouldn't do anything silly, and fortunately the horse just literally carried me out of the arena and over to my trainer where I was supposed to be anyway. This video drives home to me just how lucky I was... I do remember my trainer yelling at me for not having a better breakfast that morning, though... Yet another example of how important proper education from an RD is!

Looking forward to your weekend recap! :-)

Shannon said...

I've never experienced anything that extreme. I have felt shakey before, but that was long ano, before I started being more conscious of what my body needs. I am one of those people who can't run with food in my stomach. it never turns out well! But as I have started running farther and farther, I have brought those sports beans with me. I like the Luna moons taste-wise, but they are so sticky, they get stuck in my teeth and I physically have to use my finger to get the gummy moons out of my teeth! Not conducive to running! I like the sports beans better.

k said...

I actually felt physically ill when I watched that video -it made me nauseous.

While I've never felt anything that extreme I definitely hit a bit of a wall during my last half marathon. My stomach was off so from about the 12th kilometer on, I couldn't stomach much (water, gatorade or gu). I'm usually someone who has to drink a LOT when I run, so I definitely paid for it and the last 5K of the race was absolute hell. My legs alternated between felling shaky and just not being able to feel them at all. I really had to convince myself that putting one foot in front of the other was the right thing to do :)
In then end, I still finished and still PR'd, but it was NOT the kind of finish or race I had imagined and I still wonder how much faster I could have run had I been able to follow my nutrition strategy.

Courtney F said...

WOW. What an emotionally strong video. Its amazing how our bodies try to protect us and our minds overrule.

Kelly said...

I did some research today on foam rolling for cyclists. There is actually less information on this then you would expect which explains why I did not find a lot of information on it at first glance. From what I can tell, cyclists have to focus a lot on the quad muscles and the IT band. This means, you would focus on rolling on top of the foam roller right on your quads and then do the side rolling for your IT band. For a picture of this, see my blog post tonight- I am doing the IT roll in the first and the quad in the second picture. Both of these particular rolls are also found in the video I posted in my entry last night. Hopefully this helps!