Burning fat as fuel

Recently I have been experimenting with training in a fasted state. Like most people I never know what to eat on my morning runs, I always feel tempted to have a banana smoothie or some other high energy food packed full of carbohydrates. Often I will do this and find that after around 30 mins of running I will start to receive a mild stitch in my side. Not pleasant and not the recipe for recording some quick times.

So just incase readers are not aware of ‘fasted training’. It is essentially undertaking exercise without consuming carbohydrates beforehand. The reason to do this is to get my body used to burning fat as its primary source of energy on longer runs. The idea being that I can prepare myself to run a marathon using fat as my primary fuel. Our body only has a limited amount of glycogen this is around 90 minutes for most people but an unlimited supply of one energy ‘fat’. By training in this way I am hoping I will be able to get my body to switch to primarily using fat to fuel long runs.

Like I said this is a bit of an experiment for me at the moment and tomorrow I will be doing a 9 mile run with my friend Clare again without eating. However I will take some dates with me incase I bonk if we decide to go a bit further. Actually according to Tim Van Orden who has previous been US Trail Runner of the year; you can eat carbohydrates after 30 mins of running as your body has switched over to a fat burning system.

Last week I did my first longer run in a fasted state and despite a bit of a drop half way I picked it back up and was fairly happy with my performance as it was the first time I have gone this distance since returning to running.

8 miles plus

I highly recommend checking out this video by Tim Van Orden talking about the reasons behind fasted training. He gives so much great advice here. And don’t worry when I get in from my run I will be eating plenty of carbohydrates and hydrating.

Durian Rider also recommends fasting before short/mid distances up to 21km. Two slightly different angles but both well worth watching.

I will let you know how I get on as I look for the perfect formula to help me achieve my best possible time at the Ashford Half Marathon in just over 3 weeks.

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8 thoughts on “Burning fat as fuel

  1. I never eat before a Parkrun as I find I feel quite sick at the end. For my last half marathon I started going out before breakfast, as otherwise the run (well having breakfast, letting it go down for ages, and then going out) would take up so much of my day, whereas if I ate after I could be home much sooner. I used to only be able to run 3 miles before breakfast before I started feeling all shaky, but for my last half I got up to 8 or 9 miles before breakfast. For the longer runs I might have a few dates before I set out, but that was enough. I just made sure I had eaten normally the night before. Training that was got me my fastest half time. The only trouble is that for longer races I feel I need to eat as they start that much later- eg if they start at 10.30 or 11am, I would not finish until midday or later, so it would be a long time. But who knows, perhaps as I carry on I will get more used to it.

    • Hi Maria,

      Thanks for the feedback, it is good to know that this is working for other runners not just elites. I had my dates after 30 mins of my run yesterday, they tasted so good and it was nice to share them with my running friends. I am running the Greenwich Park 10k on Sunday and it starts at 9:30 but I am going to have to leave my house at around 7:00 to make sure I get there on time. I am really not sure as to whether to try and hang on or just have a small amount of carbs when I wake up. What do you reckon?

      • It is quite a long time really. I suppose if you managed with dates while you were running then maybe have a few in your pocket in case you feel you need an energy boost? If it was me then I would have something, as otherwise by the time I finished it would be gone 10.30, and I would have been up for a good 4 hours so I think I would find it tough. BUt we are all different! I look forward to seeing how you get on.

  2. Hey Damien it’s Natalie 🙂 I am loving see yours and Kasia’s progress with running, have you seen the RawBrahs before? They are pretty awesome, they have a YouTube here http://www.youtube.com/user/rawbrahs

  3. I also always run before breakfast, though I do need some time to wake up properly, get my muscles working and just come up with some energy before I can get out running. In that time I usually drink one, sometimes one and a half cups of coffee, as I would get shaky without having consumed anything. And I always feel very good after rewarding myself with a nice and healthy breakfast after an early morning run, though I make sure to consume it within that first “magic 30 minutes”.

    • I am the same, I need to be awake for at least 30 minute normally before heading out of the door. Otherwise I just feel sick for the first couple of miles. I am trying to quit coffee currently on day 5, I think I managed to trick my body with the decaff yesterday. I really like eating bananas for breakfast after my dates after 30 mins of running yesterday I had about 5 bananas when I got straight through the door.

      Have you got any races coming up?

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