I want to

A bright light in the darkness of defeat.

Workouts have been awesome lately. You’ve be killing it, walking away feeling really great, tired but you know you’ll be able to do more later. But lately you’ve been struggling from almost the beginning. 2 minutes in feels like 60 minutes. It sucks. Why do you feel this way? You didn’t feel this way last week.

What’s different

As best as you know, nothing is different. You’re doing the things you have always done. There could be a number of reasons why you feel like you are lacking energy, or you actually are lacking energy. Have you been doing the same things that you have been doing when you don’t feel this way? Things such as getting enough rest, eating enough carbs before your workout. Fueling before a workout is very important, so much I wrote a post about it.

But, there could be other things going on, things I would like to write about.

What else

There is a lot of chemistry happening for our body to perform and perform well under harsh conditions. Our body requires vitamins, minerals (micro nutrients), carbs, water to create energy. I have excluded fat purposely because if you are burning fat for your main source of energy, you are not working that intensely. Let’s take a look at things that if we are lacking proper amounts of our performance goes drastically down, so much that we take notice.

Magnesium: Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is needed for breaking down glucose into energy. Not having enough magnesium will result in a higher heart rate and the need for more oxygen to work out.

If you feel you aren’t getting enough magnesium, be sure to consume more almonds, hazelnuts, or cashews. Also, you can increase your intake of whole grains.

Iron: Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia which occurs when the body does not have enough iron. Your body needs iron to produce red blood cells which bring oxygen to the bodies tissues. Your muscles and tissues need oxygen to perform properly. If you aren’t getting enough iron it makes sense why you would be tired. You are also probably tired outside of any exercising that you do.

If you feel this is you, get your blood tested to see if you are deficient in iron.

Water: They say by the time we realize we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. Water plays an important role in the chemical process of creating energy. If you feel you are not getting enough water, well, drink more water!

Vitamin B: B vitamins are responsible for the conversion of carbs into ATP, the currency of energy. They are needed. Plain and simple. Lacking in B vitamins will make it very difficult for your body to convert carbs into energy. So you might be getting the proper amount of carbs, rest and so on, but if you are lacking in B vitamins, more than likely you will end up lethargic.

Be sure to eat foods high in B vitamins to get what you need and supplement if necessary. Dark green vegetables, grains, lentils and nuts are all good sources.

Vitamin B12: Being deficient in B12 can also lead to a low red blood cell count, and we now know the detriments of that. No wonder you don’t have energy. In fact, for people who are constantly tired, doctors have prescribed B12 injections. If you feel you aren’t getting enough B12, or aren’t sure, have blood work done. An easy way to get more B12 is by supplementation. Stick with the pills that dissolve under the tongue for better results.

Lets look at other things that can impact our performance.

Thyroid: It could be possible that you have a low thyroid function issue. If you fatigue is an ongoing issue, have it checked out by your doctor.

Rest: Rest, sleep. Quality sleep. Hopefully you are getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, and hopefully they are quality hours. If you find that you are having a really hard time getting out of bed when the alarms sounds, that you are constantly hitting the snooze to get more sleep, you aren’t getting enough quality sleep. Quality sleep. I qualify this with the word quality because just sleep isn’t enough. Your brain has to go into the proper state for your sleep to be adequate. Alcohol can be a contributing factor to not getting quality sleep even though you tend to sleep.

It’s really straight forward. Your body, and your mind need sleep. That’s it. It’s basic.

Carbohydrates: Hate me if you want to, but I don’t agree with high protein/low carb diets. Our bodies need complex carbs for energy. Carbs are what gives us glucose and glycogen which is converted to ATP the currency of energy for everything we do. If you are lacking in carbs your body will convert protein (sometimes existing muscle)  into carbs through a chemical process, but it’s inefficient and why would you want your exiting muscle converted to carbs anyways? Doesn’t make sense, does it.

Sickness: It could be as simple as you are sick, fighting some bacteria or a virus. But, if a couple weeks pass and you are still lacking energy, see your doctor

Seek

If you are feeling this way, you feel your performance is not where it should be, and it’s been more than a couple of weeks, see your doctor. You will want to have blood work done to see if there are any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, if you have a thyroid issue or if your lack of energy needs medical attention.

Training and feeling like there is an additional 50 lbs on your shoulders, or an anchor tied to your body is not fun at all. We are supposed to be making gains, not feeling like we are moving backwards. It can be discouraging, even depressing. Take the steps necessary to see if any of the above is going on. Don’t delay it unnecessarily as you will only feel worse as time goes on.

Address this issue as soon as possible and get back out there, killing it like you do. You are a beast and need to get back on your feet as close to 100% as you can be.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you

There is magic in fighting battles beyond endurance.

It’s straight forward and simple. When our body runs out of fuel, it can no longer perform at the output we desire. Whether it’s 20 minutes into your workout, or 3 hours the body will slow down due to lack of fuel. You can’t control this, it will just happen. I know we have all been there. It’s defeating when it happens because you know you can do better, you did better your last workout.

How do we prevent this? In a previous post I covered fueling before your workout. If you haven’t read it, you might want to. It will help you in performing as best as you can for workouts that will last up to 60 minutes, or on the edge of 90 minutes. There are more workouts, events lasting longer than 60 minutes. It used to be that most long lasting workouts were marathons. But now we have boot camps, cross training classes, tuff mudders endurance events that are anywhere from 90 minutes to hours in duration.

You need to refuel during these events, with the right fuel to continue.

The science of it

ATP. Three letters that represent a chemical compound that is responsible for everything we do. Anything your body does is fueled by ATP.

For simplicity we can think of three different sources for our body to create ATP: Creatine Phosphate, carbohydrates, and fat. I’m not going to get into Creatine Phosphate since generally you won’t be in the intensity zone needed to use that as a source. And fat? Not going to talk about fat that much either. Carbohydrates is what this post is going to focus on.

Carbohydrates, or sugar, is what the body processes into glycogen and glucose. Glucose is what is in our blood to be used with oxygen to create ATP so we can function. Think of glycogen as the unused glucose. Glycogen gets stored in our liver and in our muscles. When the body needs glucose the glycogen is then converted to glucose. Our body can store only so much glycogen. If you have ever heard of someone ‘carbo loading’ the night before an event such as a marathon, that person was trying to fill up the glycogen fuel tank so they are heading into the event with a full fuel tank. Studies have shown that this carbo loading may not be all that effective or necessary. Your body can hold only so much glycogen, about 500 grams or 2000 calories worth. If you eat more food than needed, that extra amount of carbs gets turned into fat. Studies have also shown that a meal high in carbs a couple of hours before the event should satisfy the amount of carbs needed to top out your glycogen stores as long as you are not already overly depleted.

This 500 gram supply of glycogen can last for as much as 90 minutes when exercising at a low intensity level or up to 30 minutes when training at a high intensity level.

Is it starting to make sense why what we eat and when we eat is very important to how we perform? And there’s still more to cover!

We hit the 90 minute mark and have depleted our glycogen stores. Bone dry. Our body comes to a crashing halt, unable to move anymore without fuel. Well, not really. But things do happen that we really don’t want happening. Our body will be forced to slow down into a lower intensity level where we can use fat as a fuel. But we cannot use only fat as a fuel. Our body still craves glucose and will do anything to get it. You’re not going to like this part. It’s somewhat disconcerting and demoralizing. Your body will turn on you and metabolize muscle. Muscle that you have been working your butt off to build. Your body has turned against you and your gains that you made are starting to diminish. The body does what the body needs to do. The longer the event the more muscle lost to being converted to fuel.

There’s hope

Don’t worry, there’s hope. There are steps we can take to prevent this from happening and to be strong at the beginning, middle and end of the event.

You have probably already figured it out, what it is we need to do. We need to eat! We need to get carbs back into our system. So reach into your backpack and pull out a couple of donuts you have in there for this purpose. Might as well enjoy it, right? Alright, not really. There are better ways to get carbs into our system.

When do we do this? Do we do this after our glycogen stores are depleted? No. Let’s not get to that point. Let’s get those carbs back into our system before our performance is impacted. Ideally to not get impacted you will want to take a form of carbohydrates about every 30 minutes during exercise. And you will want to do this in a way that is easy. Forget the donut and lets use something easier and better.

Gels, sport drinks, fruit. These are some options. If you have a bit of a break during your event you might want to consume an orange, or banana, or maybe some dates. If you don’t have a break, or you want something easy to digest try a sports gel or a sports drink. Easy to take and easy to process. Remember, we are all different. The amount you need is probably different that the amount I would need. This comes under training smart. Try using varying amounts as you train and find the best combination. Maybe a gel pack to start then a couple of mouthfuls of a sports drink later. Or maybe a gel pack and a couple of mouthfuls of a sports drink to wash it down. You have to play with it. But at least you are taking something! That alone should help you. One warning though. Once you have found what works for you, the brand of sports gel, amount, etc. don’t go messing with that combination on the day of the event. It could be the worst thing you do. Just like a marathoner wouldn’t run the event in a brand new, never worn pair of shoes you never want to introduce anything new. You never know how your body, or digestive system will react. It very well could react negatively ending your event prematurely.

Finished, time to rest

You have finished your event, your workout. What you do know is important to how you will feel that day or the following day. Our glycogen stores are still depleted and we need to fill them back up. Don’t go for the protein shake yet. You will need some protein but that’s later. If you were to eat protein instead of carbs you may not have enough glucose and glycogen to create the energy to digest the food and once again your body will be eating itself. Try to refuel with a combination of 4 carbs to 1 protein. If your event was exceptionally long, you will want to continue to reload carbs up to 24 hours after the event.

Be the best

I probably sound redundant but I believe a good message deserves to be heard over and over. Train smart. I’ll give you an example. Years ago people would train and compete in events without drinking water and sometimes in extreme heat. You were a wimp if you drank water. You were told to ‘suck it up’. So what happened that you hardly ever see anyone training without water. Even the military, the bastion of this type of thinking is taking hydration seriously. What happened? People died! And people started to find out that people were dying due to dehydration.

You probably won’t die due to depleted glycogen stores but you could be causing short and long term damage. And you performance will suffer, and you will feel like crap. Really. Running out of glycogen is called ‘hitting the wall’, not ‘laying down in a nice soft bed’. That should tell you something.

I have another reason for you to do this. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to yourself to be as strong as you can and have an awesome experience doing it instead of it being disappointing. At least, I think you do.

Yours in health,

Darryl