Just about all serious marathon runners have experienced it. In the last half of a marathon, usually at about mile 21, their energy suddenly plummets. Their legs slow down, and it's almost impossible to make them go faster. Nutritionists blame carbohydrate loss: When the supply runs out, runners "hit the wall."
Now a model published this month in PLoS Computational Biology tells runners when they'll hit the wall, helping them to plan their carb-loading or refueling strategies accordingly. Benjamin Rapoport, a dual M.D.-Ph.D. student at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the idea began 5 years ago, when a class conflicted with his running in the Boston Marathon. His professor let him skip, provided he give a talk on the physiology of endurance running afterward. The talk became an annual tradition, and now he's quantified his ideas.
Rapoport's model looks at multiple factors, such as a runner's desired pace, muscle mass, and aerobic capacity, the amount of oxygen the body can deliver to its muscles. "It's a real tour de force," says physiologist Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, although he adds it is hard to account for all individual differences.
Which is better, chowing down days before or grabbing some sugar during the race? "Both," says sports nutritionist Edward Coyle of the University of Texas, Austin. "The carb loading will raise the glycogen levels in your muscles, and taking in carbs during the race will keep your blood glucose levels up." And now Rapoport even has an app for that: Athletes will can calculate their thresholds at http://endurancecalculator.com/.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Calculate your endurance
I thought I would pass on this fascinating item from the Random Samples section of the Oct. 29th issue of Science Magazine. Now you can calculate exactly what carbohydrate loading you need to run a marathon in a desired amount of time: