Comment éviter la fatigue durant l’effort ou le sport d’endurance ? | Holyfat

How to avoid fatigue during exercise or endurance sports?

Have you ever had that feeling of intense fatigue in the middle of an effort? The unpleasant feeling that your body has just given up without warning? There's a name for this dip in form: the wall. This physical failure can strike even the most trained athletes and put a stop to their effort.

In this article, we will not deal with the importance of quality sleep (which is essential), the frequency of training or the equipment to be favored... We will zoom in on a food source often neglected and yet of a formidable quality to maintain its performance: fat!

But what is the reason for this phenomenon?

A quick reminder of the basics of sports nutrition.
Physical exercise in sportsmen and women, whatever sport they practice, comes mainly from their muscles, supplied with oxygen and energy by the marvelous machine made up of organs and the bloodstream.

To function, these muscles need energy from food. Most of the body's cells are able to use different energy substrates: glucose, amino acids (proteins) or fatty acids (lipids). Some cells, such as neurons or red blood cells, are glucodependent: their favorite fuel is glucose (especially for red blood cells, which are strictly glucodependent).

Let's add one last nuance: glucose is essential, not carbohydrates. The difference is crucial, because the body can synthesize glucose from lipids or proteins, which makes the massive use of carbohydrates useless (the pasta dish the day before the race, or the maltodextrin shaker before the start).

Under normal conditions, an individual who consumes carbohydrates (starchy foods, sweet products...) will burn some of it and store it after his meal first as glycogen in the liver and muscles, then as triglycerides in the fat cells. The hormone responsible for this storage is called insulin.

During an effort, the needs increase: it is thus essential to adapt the contribution to the expenditure and the intensity. When the athlete consumes sugary products - such as bars, gels, honey, exercise drinks - the boost will be immediate: his glycemia (blood sugar level) will suddenly increase, insulin will allow the sugar to feed the cells and maintain the effort... But not for long.

Once the dose has been assimilated, which takes between 40 minutes and 1 hour on average, the blood sugar level will go back down, and the body will send out an alert because it will need fuel again: this is what we call hypoglycemia, central fatigue or even the famous wall. Legs that go wobbly, sweating, palpitations, dizziness, nausea, chills, intense weakness ... If we do not fill the need quickly, the machine goes wrong, and then it becomes complicated for our athlete. It is often at this point that injuries occur, or that we have to call the doctor because our athlete finds himself with all four irons in the air.

In order to avoid this during the practice of an endurance sport (and even during training), and to improve your performance, the advice to remember is tolearn to manage your energy and the quality of your intake. Because yes, there is quantity, but also quality that comes into play.

There are two parameters to consider: providing energy to the body, and not forgetting the carbohydrate-dependent cells. To do this, it is essential to maintain a level of liver and muscle glycogen, which will constitute the reserve of these cells. This can be maintained by favouring the use of lipids during exercise, which are another energy source that is almost inexhaustible, and it is here that fat reveals all its assets!

Once upon a time, there was fat!

An adult has an average of 2,000 kcal of energy stored in the form of glycogen. Depending on the volume of his fat mass, he has more than 50,000 kcal in the form of fat... You might as well say that with that, there is enough to go a long way without stalling! Obviously, the athlete will have to eat well before reaching the 50,000 kcal gauge, but such a reservoir must be given pride of place when training and practicing an endurance sport, especially fundamental endurance which implies, in essence, a very long but gentle exercise in terms of intensity variation: trail or ultra-trail, marathon, triathlon, ultra-cycling, polar expedition on a fat bike (yes, too)... The list is long, the types of sports numerous, but they all have one thing in common: they require sustained and constant energy over long hours.

How does the human body use fat?

To make it simple: In our body, carbohydrates are transformed into glucose/glycogen, lipids are transformed into ketone bodies by various biochemical processes, the details of which we will skip. These ketone bodies - or ketones - will then take over from the glucose during the effort and will be able to feed the muscles and organs for hours, without the need to recharge. The stored glucose will feed the red blood cells, so that you can continue to oxygenate yourself. The brain can also use ketone bodies, which it transforms into glucose via neo-glucogenesis, and does not need carbohydrates as such. Blood sugar levels will not vary - no more cravings - so there will be no need to take a refill every 45 minutes, you could continue your effort quietly for longer.

As we said before, quantity counts, but so does quality. Note that one gram of carbohydrates provides 4kcal, against 9kcal for 1g of fat. In terms of quality/quantity ratio, we are not playing on the same level. You have to eat much more carbohydrates than fat to get the same amount, which is often very unpalatable. Also consider that the blood, busy supplying the muscles with oxygen, will be less available to the digestive system and therefore, the more you eat, the greater the risk of digestive problems. This is not very pleasant either.

Finally, please note that when we talk about fats, we exclude of course the fat contained in ultra-processed products, trans fats, hydrogenated fats or poor quality. We focus on good quality animal or vegetable fats: virgin or extra virgin oils, oilseeds (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.), fatty fish, meat or eggs, seeds, fatty fruits (e.g. avocado), MCT oil from coconut, etc.

And it's done just like that, from one day to the next?

Not really, no, that would be too good. There are two types of diets that allow for the gradual and sustainable use of fat in the body: the ketogenic diet and the LCHF diet (Low-Carb, High Fat). In these diets, daily carbohydrate intake is greatly reduced in favor of fat (the former being stricter than thelatter). An individual following one of these diets will ingest up to 80% of his or her daily intake of fats (compared to a recommendation of 35-40% for a healthy adult in a conventional diet), and about 5 to 10% of sugars (compared to about 50% in a normal balanced diet). After a few weeks of adaptation ("keto-adaptation"), the body will then use ketones instead of sugar to provide energy to the muscles.

For athletes who wish to consume fat instead of sugar, without switching to a daily keto or LCHF diet, we recommend that you try it out during a race, long sessions or outings, because as you probably know, it is not recommended to experiment on competition day! Keep a sweet product on hand until you are sure that the fat alternative fulfills its promise and ensures a safe ride (we remind you that roadside PLS is not recommended).

Also note that the consumption of a sweet product in the last hour of effort and/or during recovery is still interesting to refill your glycogen reserves if you are not keto-adapted. Indeed, as your body is not used to burning ketones over the long term, it will be interesting to recharge your batteries with sugars during the last few kilometers. Likewise, if you are tired and the fat is not enough, a little sugar boost could be interesting to keep you going.

Holyfat contains 67% of good fats for only 3% of carbohydrates: enough to last long and go far!

And Holyfat in all this?

For those who want to consume fat during the effort rather than sugar, it is the ideal snack to take everywhere. Practical, it slips into a pocket and is consumed very easily, even while riding or running, no need to stop. A pouch provides an average of 27g of fat and 280 kcal. It allows you to give up nothing and to give everything!

For athletes who are not "keto-adapted", we recommend you use Holyfat during the first hours of your effort by keeping a sweet snack on hand.

In conclusion

Diet plays a key role in the practice of an endurance sport. It is necessary to know oneself well and to adapt the content of one's plate (or banana bag) to one's needs, intensity and duration of the effort. Fat offers a quality alternative to athletes who wish to overcome the problems of hunger and low energy during their outings or competitions. Without being keto-adapted, it can be used during long exercises, provided that it has been tested beforehand and guaranteed safe for the practitioner.

Finally, it is obvious that other elements come into play before, during and after the preparatory sessions or the competition, such as hydration, vitamins and minerals, sleep,... All these aspects and more will be the subject of different dedicated articles on this blog!

Don't forget: good fat is life!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.