Glycogen: The Difference Between Hitting a Wall and Surging Through a Wall During a Long Run

Glycogen is your body’s way of storing carbohydrates so that you have energy throughout your entire long run. Your body breaks down glycogen into glucose in response to physical activities such as running. Stocking up your glycogen inventory is essential for maximizing your energy when the going gets tough late in a long run.

After a Long Run

Yes, you did it. I am proud of you. I really am. Instead of going around town and celebrating your long run, start preparing for your next one. And now is the time because your body is likely depleted of glycogen stores. In order to continue to surge through the final miles of your next long run, it is essential to replenish your glycogen stores immediately. The process of recovery begins the second you finish your workout.

The Science

Studies show that you replace glycogen stores at the fastest rate during the first 1-2 hours after running. Glycogen resynthesis continues at this higher-than-average rate for the next 10-12 hours after a glycogen-depleting run. After these 12 hours, your rate of glycogen replenishment decreases to normal levels. What this means is that you will recover more quickly if you eat and drink carbohydrates soon after your long runs. Don’t wait several hours to eat. Eat asap. If your stomach doesn’t feel up to a meal within an hour or so after running, eat something to get the replenishment process started. And then eat more after you shower and freshen up.

Things To Drink or Eat Immediately After a Long Run

  • Chocolate Milk
  • Coconut Water with Protein Powder
  • Banana with Almond Butter

Running Scientist Suggestion

Eat or drink something immediately after your long run (preferably a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein), and then make sure to sit down to a full meal within 45 minutes. By re-building your glycogen stores immediately following your long run, you will be able to train hard again sooner.