A good glycogen storage before the marathon?

Question: How can I make a good glycogen storage before the marathon?

Answer by Luis Tavares

My advice for making a good glycogen storage is that, from Monday to Wednesday on the week of the race, you avoid carbohydrates (pasta, potato, etc) replacing then with proteins (meat, eggs, etc). So, from Thursday until Saturday, eat just carbohydrates. Why should you adopt this strategy? Because when you stop eating carbohydrates and continue your training, you extinguish your storage and, when you resume eating carbohydrates, you increase the carbohydrate storage to a much higher level than the usual.
Luis Tavares
Phone: (11)3159-8456 - e-mail: e.c.tavares@uol.com.br - site: https://www.ectavares.com.br


Answer by Marco Alburquerque

The increasing of the glycogen storage through diet was perfected after much research proved that there is a direct relation between the glycogen storage and the performance during endurance races.

Athletes with a high glycogen storage were up to 12 minutes faster during 30 km tests. To increase the glycogen storage a system was used initially where the athlete had a high volume training while eating basically fat and protein with low carbohydrate intake. This phase with high training and low carbohydrate intake, which lasted three days on average, had the goal to lower as much as possible the carbohydrate storage in the muscles. The idea was that this carbohydrate storage reduction would work as a stimulus to increase the storage, when there was plenty of carbohydrate intake, to a level above the one at the beginning of the diet. 
In phase two of the diet, the athlete had to eat a high carbohydrate diet and decrease the training volume. However, this system was criticized because of its low carbohydrate phase, which was considered to be dangerous for the athlete's performance.

Newer researches demonstrated that the high glycogen
storage in the muscles would be achieved without the need of a first phase where training was increased and carbohydrate intake decreased. It was tested whether the athlete just needed to, on the race week, eat a high carbohydrate diet and decrease substantially the training volume.

The most important stimulus for increasing the glycogen
storage in the muscles was the training volume reduction, which has other functions besides this one, and increasing carbohydrate intake. 

Marco Alburquerque.
Phone: (12) 97038870
e-mail: marcomrt@directnet.com.br

Answer by Luis Antônio Sturian

After some practical experiments from 1985 to 1989, when I used to run a marathon every year (the Rio de Janeiro Marathon which was very well structured at that time), I started to study the possibilities to increase my glycogen stores for the long distance races. I tried that classic diet which, in the phase one, you lower your glycogen storage at the same time that you do "intense training"; and, in the phase two on the week of the race, you do light training and eat a high carbohydrate diet so you end up with a higher carbohydrate stores in the muscles, liver and blood. 

However, this classic system offers some risks and it is not used anymore, since the training with low level carbohydrate storage can damage your performance. 

The most important thing is to stimulate the glucogenesis through training, but restoring the carbohydrate
storage immediately or, at most, two hors after the intense training. It is even better if you can take advantage of diet supplements. During training and races that last over one hour, the athlete should intake 50 grams of carbohydrate with water every 15 or 20 minutes to retard the wasting of the stores. The result is that you don't lose performance, due to the glucose depletion, so you can have a better performance at the end. 

High level athletes count on professional support and have high expenses with diet supplements. However, most runners are amateurs and cannot afford such expenses. The solution is to make use of grains (oatmeal, wheat, soy, etc) and fruits like banana that are also cheap. 

As an example, an athlete that is used to running only distances below 10k and decides to take part in a 15-18k race. He will finish the race exhausted and with low level glycogen stores. So, it is better to make a training program "specifically for the marathon" and follow a strict glucose restoring system before, during and after training. If you do this, I am sure you will have positive results. The carbohydrates intake by liquids, during and straight after training and races, will reach the blood stream faster. 

Examples of foods with plenty of carbohydrate: potato, rice, beet, grains, bread, pasta, oatmeal, sugars, sweets, chocolate, corn, cookies and fruits; besides these foods, you can also consider supplements like gels with maltodextrina. 

Training + restoring carbohydrate stores = higher glycogen stores in muscles, liver and blood = better sports performance. 
Luis Antônio Sturian
Phone: (19) 434-2545 - e-mail: voutreinar@voutreinar.com.br  
site: www.voutreinar.com.br


Related articles:
Benefits of Long Runs
Eat & Drink for Distance Running Performance, carbohydrates, training volume, grains, fruits

This article has informational purpose and  isn't a substitute for professional advice.


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