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DEMYSTIFYING GLYCOGEN

A SIMPLE GUIDE TO CALCULATING OUR CARBS NEED A RUN

BY DR. FATIMA KHAN

Embarking on a run is more than just putting on your favorite sneakers and hitting the pavement. It's a journey that involves your body's intricate energy systems, with glycogen playing a crucial role. Understanding how to calculate your exact glycogen storage and carbohydrate usage can empower you to optimize your post-run refueling strategy. In this blog, we'll break down the science in easy terms, helping you make informed decisions about replenishing your energy reserves.

Glycogen and Its Role in Running:
Before delving into calculations, let's grasp the basics. Glycogen is a stored form of glucose in the muscles and liver, serving as a primary energy source during physical activities like running. When you run, your body taps into these glycogen stores to keep you going. Knowing how much glycogen you use is the key to determining your post-run carbohydrate needs.

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Understanding Your Body's Glycogen Storage:
The average person can store about 400 grams of glycogen in their muscles and another 100 grams in the liver. However, these numbers can vary based on factors such as body weight and muscle mass. To calculate your glycogen storage, you can use a simple formula:

          Glycogen Storage (grams) = 4 grams × (Muscle Mass + Liver Storage)
This formula provides a rough estimate of your total glycogen storage capacity.

Measuring Carbohydrate Usage During a Run:

Calculating the exact amount of carbohydrates you burn during a run is challenging, as it depends on various factors like intensity, duration, and individual metabolism. However, a general rule of thumb is that runners burn about 100 calories per mile, with a significant portion coming from carbohydrates. To estimate your carbohydrate usage, you can use the following formula:

​           Carbs Usage (grams) = Calories Burned During Run / 4
This formula assumes that carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.

Post-Run Refueling Strategy:
Now that you have an idea of your glycogen storage and carbohydrate usage during a run, the next step is to plan your post-run refueling. The goal is to replenish glycogen stores and promote recovery. Experts recommend consuming a mix of carbohydrates and proteins within 30 minutes to an hour after finishing your run. A common guideline is to aim for a carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of 3:1 or 4:1.

Real-Life Example:
Let's walk through an example. Suppose you have calculated that your glycogen storage capacity is 200 grams, and you burned approximately 400 grams of carbohy Measuring Carbohydrate Usage During a Run:
Calculating the exact amount of carbohydrates you burn during a run is challenging, as it depends on various factors like intensity, duration, and individual metabolism. However, a general rule of thumb is that runners burn about 100 calories per mile, with a significant portion coming from carbohydrates. To estimate your carbohydrate usage, you can use the following formula:

​           Carbs Usage (grams) = Calories Burned During Run / 4
This formula assumes that carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.

Post-Run Refueling Strategy:
Now that you have an idea of your glycogen storage and carbohydrate usage during a run, the next step is to plan your post-run refueling. The goal is to replenish glycogen stores and promote recovery. Experts recommend consuming a mix of carbohydrates and proteins within 30 minutes to an hour after finishing your run. A common guideline is to aim for a carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of 3:1 or 4:1.

Real-Life Example:
Let's walk through an example. Suppose you have calculated that your glycogen storage capacity is 200 grams, and you burned approximately 400 grams of carbohydrates during a 4-mile run. Your refueling target would be around 100-133 grams of carbohydrates (using a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio). This replenishment helps kickstart the recovery process.

Adjusting for Individual Factors:
Consider this: the calculations we just talked about are like road signs guiding you, but your body is the driver on this journey. Everyone's body is different, influenced by things like age, how fast your metabolism works, and how much training you've done. Imagine it's like having a unique map for each person.
Remember, these numbers are general advice. Your body might have its own preferences. So, it's crucial to pay attention to how you're feeling and performing. Think of it as your body giving you signals – like a friend saying if they're tired or full. If you feel like you need more fuel after a run, trust your instincts and adjust accordingly. Your body is your best guide on this road to better running and health.

Experiment and Fine-Tune:
Think of running like a unique adventure, and your food choices are the sidekicks on this journey. Try different snacks after your run, like a detective testing clues. Notice how your body reacts – does it feel happy, energetic, or maybe a bit sluggish? Just like a radio station, tune in to your energy levels, recovery time, and how you're feeling overall.
It's like being a chef in your kitchen, adjusting the recipe until it tastes just right. Maybe you need a bit more of this or less of that. Your body is giving you feedback, like a friend saying if they liked the meal. So, tweak your refueling plan until it fits your body's taste. Running is your story, and finding the perfect snack is like discovering the secret ingredient that makes your journey even more amazing.

Conclusion
Understanding how to calculate your glycogen storage and carbohydrate usage arms you with valuable insights for optimizing your post-run nutrition. By taking a thoughtful approach to refueling, you can enhance your performance, reduce the risk of fatigue, and ensure that your body is ready for the next stride. Remember, each run is a step toward better understanding your body and fine-tuning your approach to fueling this incredible machine.

Happy running!

 

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