Tag Archives: carbohydrates

Fuel and Running – Part 2 – Maximising Glycogen Stores

As mentioned in the previous post, runners use both carbohydrates and fats during a run.

We won’t be talking about protein because protein is only broken down during extreme cases.58d054bbb9c5b14b3eceef810e7bef0c

The percentage of which fuel a runner uses depends on the INTENSITY of the run (which will be discussed in another post!). For now, we will focus on the FUEL.


We are all familiar with carbs – the rice, the breads, the noodles. The very food group people try to avoid when they want to lose weight (Not all carbs are “bad”. You just have to find what is right for you!).


They are stored in the body as glycogen and broken down to glucose when the body needs it.


There are limits as to how much glycogen you can store in your liver (about 100-200g) and muscle tissues (about 400-500g). It takes about 120 minutes of running to deplete your glycogen stores.

As discussed, low glycogen stores and blood glucose levels have ill effects on running performance which would either require you to slow to a walk or STOP completely.

Maximising Glycogen Stores


In runner’s vocabulary, it’s called CARBO-LOADING. Carbo-loading involves significantly increasing carbohydrate intake a few days prior to a race. There is evidence that higher pre-exercise glycogen levels delay fatigue.


Although there are a few limitations on the studies performed on carbo-loading, it is safe to say that runners will benefit from it prior (final 3 days) to racing or running longer distances (especially when it comes to speed and performance).

When and How Much?

Carbo-loading takes place during taper week, 3 days before the big day (NOT one week).

Some people begin carbo-loading a week before the big event and takes this opportunity to “EAT ALL YOU CAN” (not a good idea unless you plan to ruin your race day performance).


The recommended amount is 8-12g per KG per day.

For me (45KG), that is about 450g of CARBS PER DAY, equivalent to about 40 slices of bread. BREAD MONSTAHHHH! Even if you’re a big eater, it is not easy to consume the recommended amount of carbs.

When I was preparing for SCKLM 2014, I wrote down every food and drink consumed. I had to have a sense of what I was putting into my mouth. I calculated exactly how many grams of carbs (in everything) to make sure that I ate the right amount. Even then, I was always on a mini binge at night because I hadn’t eaten enough. Runners can opt to drink (sports drinks, milk etc) their carbs if eating is too much to handle.

I did not practice carbo-loading before race day but I recommend that you try at least once to get the feel of it.

Does it Work?

In my experience, carbo-loading WORKS (for a marathon)! I did not hit the wall when I ran my first marathon. Training and carbo-loading done right? Probably. If anybody is interested, I can share what I had during the carbo-loading phase.


You often hear people “carbo-loading” for every race regardless of the distance. Is it necessary? Carbo-loading is unlikely to be effective for events below 120 minutes. You would have sufficient energy to fuel your run and the excess weight gained during the carbo-loading phase will in fact SLOW you down.

Although carbo-loading during the final 3 days leading up to race day is needed to top off glycogen stores, how you replenish your stores on a day to day basis is probably more important. What you eat DURING training will allow you to recover and ensures that you reap the benefits of your training.

If you’re a serious hard core runner (training up to 2 hours a day), you are effectively depleting your stores during training. The amount of carbs needed on a day to day basis is near the amount required during carbo-loading.FullSizeRender

Runners NEED to EAT!

Now you know that it is important to start off with a full tank!

You wouldn’t drive your car on empty, hey? 😉

Next up, how to reduce dependence on your carbohydrate stores.

Till then,

Keep Running!

Fuel and Running – Part 1

I cannot stress enough how important FUEL is to running. You may be the fastest runner, having the highest VO2 max and the most fatigue resistant leg muscles with many hours of training…… but you would still be rendered COMPLETELY useless if you fail to fuel enough for your metabolic system to provide sufficient energy. You can testify to this fact if you have trained hard for a marathon but hit the wall after passing the 30KM mark.


The much dreaded bonk where your blood glucose level stoops too low due to insufficient fuel intake. It is the point where you have almost completely cleared your muscle and liver’s supply of glycogen. Your brain gets fuzzy and you JUST WANT TO STOP RUNNING!

Glycogen depletion, ATP exhaustion and the accumulation of lactate have all been suspects that contribute to fatigue.

The Metabolic Story

ATP – the body’s energy currency – is what your body uses to power up your active muscles (RUNNING!) and to carry out every other activity (Anabolism and Catabolism).

We derive energy from the food we eat, mainly carbohydrates, fats and proteins (lesser extent). The muscle tissue, liver and adipose tissue are where these macronutrients are stored until we need them during movement/exercise.

When you run, adrenaline is released to kick start the metabolic process. Ultimately, carbohydrates and fats are broken down in a step by step process (Thankfully, we need not know the process. We will leave it to the body to handle) to produce ATP.

No ATP –> No Energy –> No Muscle Contraction. You can see how fuel and the metabolic system are crucial limitations to running performance.

The Supply

You’ve got to supply your body with fuel to meet its demands. Providing enough fuel during training is just as important as fueling enough for race day.

It is not easy to get it right. You have to constantly experiment with yourself. Try new things and stick to what works for you.


I had trouble meeting this balance 2 weeks ago at the RHB race. My training was as per usual except that I decided to increase the intensity on that particular week. I made the mistake of NOT compensating the extra work with extra fuel.

On race day, I felt completely drained. So much for doing extra work. All of it was lost because I didn’t have sufficient FUEL.


Glycogen stored in the liver is responsible for maintaining blood glucose concentration within the acceptable range. Your brain relies heavily on glucose to function. The problem is that the active brain uses the stored glycogen in the liver when you sleep. A race first thing in the morning can wreak havoc if you fail to eat a proper breakfast to top off your already glycogen-depleted liver.

Well, let’s just say I didn’t fuel enough throughout the week AND on the morning of the race.

FullSizeRenderHappy times.

I don’t know if I’m exaggerating but I just wanted to stop running after 8KM.  I could not brain the situation. I was feeling cold and clammy, pins and needles everywhere……it was just not my day. Thanks to Victor (fellow Puma Pacer) who ran up to me just to cheer me on! Not forgetting Kartini who yelled from across the road and Rashid who overtook me halfway. Nice to meet ya’ll! Every little bit of motivation counts! The cherry on the cake was when I was in 7-8th place when I arrived at the finish line (when I knew exactly how many people were in front of me). WHAT?!

Thankfully, the organizers checked it through with the timing chip and I managed 3rd place!




The sister came in 4th in the 21KM category. 😀

More on fuel storage and how to maximize them for performance in my next post.

Till then, EAT WELL FOLKS!

Keep Running!

Sweet potato…SWEET POTATO!

One of my all time favourite foods would have to be sweet potatoes! My love for sweet potatoes knows no bounds. I even made up my very own sweet potato song! It goes something like this: SWEET POTATO SWEET POTATO!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, that’s about it. With a tune, of course.

Sweet potatoes are grown all around the world. They are often associated with war-time and poverty because they are easy to obtain, grow, harvest and prepare.


Why sweet potatoes? Because they’re so delish and comes with a truckload of nutrients that are good for you.



Many people have the idea that carbs are the enemy when it comes to losing weight. Well, not all carbs are bad carbs. You just need to eat the right carbs! The good ones are complex carbohydrates – SWEET POTATOES! As a runner, I need carbs to fuel my short and long runs. I don’t enjoy eating rice or noodles as much as bread. To switch things up (instead of eating bread EVERY DAY), I’ve added sweet potatoes into my daily meals. One cup of mashed sweet potatoes contain about 58 grams of carbohydrates. They are easily digested and will fuel you for at least an hour.  Sweet potatoes also act to regulate blood sugar levels. As they are slow digesting carbohydrates, sugars are released slowly into the blood stream preventing the sudden spike of insulin.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is good for both the eyes and the immune system. During training, the body weakens and the immune system goes down. One medium sized sweet potato will supply 100% of your daily needs, keeping your immune system up and running.


This yellowish-orange tuber is a big hint of what it contains, you got that right – BETA-CAROTENE. Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, is an antioxidant. Like all antioxidants, they prevent the formation of free radicals through oxidation. Free radicals are capable of cell damage which could lead to the development of chronic diseases (heart diseases or cancer). Beta-carotene also protects your skin from the sun by deflecting harmful UV rays. They are also thought to prevent macular degeneration and vision loss.

Vitamin C

The familiar vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant. It prevents free radicals that are created through oxidative stress. They also have anti-ageing properties and are able to boost collagen formation, leaving your skin bright and smooth. Running puts a lot of stress on the body. It is always good to have vitamin C in your diet!


The anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to the purple sweet potato. Their deep rich purple tones come from the anthocyanin pigment. Studies have shown that they prevent unwanted inflammation by deactivating certain important inflammatory precursors (COX-2, iNOS). In our digestive tract, they are also capable of lowering the risk of oxygen radicals and heavy metals.


A trace element, often overlooked, is involved in bone metabolism and the metabolism of carbohydrates.

ImageWhat I normally have for lunch: Salad, tuna, egg, avocado and… SWEET POTATO!

To reap the full benefits of this tuber, it is important to incorporate some fat in your diet. Some fat is needed for the efficient uptake of beta-carotene and vitamin A as they are fat soluble. One tablespoon of olive oil or some avocado would do the trick (3-5grams).

Sweet potatoes are so easy to prepare! Their natural sweetness allows you to consume them on their own. No sugar, salt or dressing needed! Roast or boil them and they are good to go! GOOGLE sweet potato and you’ll find a whole selection of different ways to incorporate them into your daily diet.

There is absolutely NO reason why SWEET POTATOES should not be on your plate! HAPPY EATING!