For long-distance runners, the body becomes a machine that requires the finest tuning and ongoing care. Therefore, metabolism matters for runners, and why many long-distance marathon runners take time to understand metabolism, many turn to metabolism books. As a runner, understanding your body’s metabolism is the first step toward achieving your overall health goals. Whether you want to run a 5K or the Boston Marathon, knowing how your body’s metabolism functions are the first step, and there are many metabolism books on the market to read and learn.
First, it is essential to understand the metabolic process within the human body. Metabolism combines all the chemical processes that fuel and power all living organisms. For humans, this includes converting energy from food into energy for life-sustaining tasks such as breathing, circulating blood, building and repairing cells, digesting food, and eliminating waste. In short, metabolism is how your body uses the energy absorbed by consuming food (and beverages) to sustain life.
For marathon runners, the challenge exists on all levels: psychologically, physiologically, physically, and emotionally, every ounce of energy the body has gone into the goal of completing the 26.2-mile run. Such extended energy demands require the cardiorespiratory, endocrine, and neuromuscular systems to operate at an elevated level for an excessive time. Think about what’s taking place. Running a five-minute mile marathon requires a 15-fold increase in energy production for more than two hours. That’s for tier-one runners. Let’s give it some more time. Even marathon runners who take four hours to finish – a ten-minute mile – must maintain a 10-fold increase in their metabolism.
Metabolism is how the body transforms energy from foods. Therefore, marathon runners must consume carbs and drink lots of fluids along the marathon course. This is the only way to properly sustain the energy the metabolism uses to keep the body going. Just like a car needs fuel (gas or electric), when it runs out, it does not work. The same theory works for the human body, particularly marathon runners burning energy at a very high rate. They must refuel.
Water, sports drinks, or diluted juice are all excellent choices for marathon runners. Plain water is a solid choice if running for less than an hour. Still, if running hard for longer than an hour, like marathon runners, drinks containing sugar or maltodextrin (a slow-release carbohydrate) and sodium may speed your recovery.
Some think that marathon runners have a faster (or higher) metabolism. That isn’t necessarily true. While you don’t have much control over your metabolic rate, aerobic activity, such as running regularly, can temporarily increase your metabolism, which burns calories for energy. Increased running metabolism can lead to a reduction in your body fat percentage and improved weight loss.
Training the metabolism is just as important (if not the most important) as training to fuel your body enough to reach the finish line, as every runner knows. Running burns a lot of calories. For marathon runners, it is essential to understand how to take control of the metabolism at every mile and every checkpoint. Scientists who study running (like marathon running) use metabolic equivalents (METs) to compare the rate at which calories are burned during exercise. An activity that burns calories twice the standard resting rate is valued at 2 METs. Running is valued at 8 to 16 METs. A single two-hour marathon training at a moderate intensity of 12 METs will burn as many calories as a person typically burns in 24 hours at rest.
There are plenty of resources out there for runners to learn about metabolism. Check them out, and keep on running!