Increase your energy reserves!
Learn to “pump up” and better manage your muscle reserves
Any endurance activity requires careful training. A long bike ride cannot be improvised, much less a marathon or a triathlon! But physical preparation alone is not enough to successfully complete such a test or even to achieve victory: it is still necessary to have adequate energy resources. But these can precisely be optimized! Specific training, proper diet, and good resource management can help you not only finish an event but also win it. The point in this file.
orking on your endurance is not enough to lead a race well, or even to win it. It is also necessary to optimize the storage and use of reserves. Specific training and a calculated diet not only increase the volume of muscle reserves but also bring them above normal. A bit like a car whose tank size would have been increased while making it elastic. Training also makes it possible to optimize the use of resources by drawing more on fats than on sugars. To take the example of the car, it’s a bit like learning to drive differently so as to consume less fuel: drive slowly at the start, adopt a regular pace without unwanted acceleration, etc.
But first, what is endurance?
Endurance is the ability to maintain a sustained intensity effort over time. There are four major determining factors of endurance: heart, breath, muscles and will. These are the factors that you will have to work on to improve your endurance. See our file what is endurance and how to measure its progress .
Carbohydrates to go fast, fats to go far
During an endurance effort such as cycling, swimming or even the marathon, our muscle cells use 2 main sources of energy depending on the type of activity, the intensity of the effort and its duration:
Carbohydrates found in the blood and stored as glycogen in muscles and liver.
Lipids (or fats) stored as triglycerides in adipose tissue and muscles.
Lipid reserves are substantial. They reach several kilos (on average 15% of the mass in a man, 25% in a woman). They alone can provide autonomy for several weeks. In return, this energy is not very efficient. It does not provide enough energy to support intense efforts. Carbohydrates are transformed into energy much more quickly due to their partial oxidation. They are the main fuel during intense efforts. Thus, we will mainly spend fat in a quiet walk (moderate effort) and mainly carbohydrates in the ascent of a mountain pass (intense effort). As for endurance efforts, the ratio between the consumption of carbohydrates and lipids depends on the intensity of the effort.
Increasing glycogen stores helps increase endurance
In an endurance event, the muscles draw partly from carbohydrates. However, these reserves are limited and sometimes run out long before the final objective is reached. The athlete, if he does not eat during the effort, can empty his reserves in a few hours. It will then have to lower its pace sharply to adapt it to the rate of fat degradation. Worse: if the sugars are lacking, the combustion of fatty acids is no longer done either because it requires the presence of one of the glucose derivatives to do so. It is the fuel exhaustion. We speak of a “wall” for the marathon runner (see our article on the marathon wall: how to avoid it ) or a craving for the cyclist.