Some of the more difficult and draining activities we tend to participate in are endurance competitions. Events like cycling, marathons and triathlons all require us to manage our energy. The most difficult part of management is being able to know how much energy we have in reserve.
Energy storage and usage
In order to understand how we store and use energy, it's important to know about glucose and glycogen. Glucose is what will provide the energy we need. It comes from the complex carbohydrates in the foods we eat daily. Examples of complex carbohydrates are rice, pasta and bread. The glucose we don't use immediately will be converted to glycogen and stored for later. However, if there is too much glucose, the body stores it as fat.
The available energy we have is used up fairly quickly during exercise. When this happens the body calls on the glycogen reserves to keep us going during long competitions. However, there are limits as to the glycogen we can store. As the glycogen stores are used, the body starts to call on fat stores for extra energy. It takes time for fat to become energy. This is usually when we start to slow down in the later stages of the competition. The reason for this is because we are trying to burn energy faster than we can produce it.
The importance of training
When we train our bodies for endurance, it also helps our muscles to store more glycogen. As our conditioning improves, so will our fat burning improve to provide energy while our glycogen decreases. After 18 miles or so is when we usually use up our glycogen reserves. This is when our training efforts pay off.
Do supplements work?
There are more people now who use supplements for endurance events. The success of these supplements vary with each athlete. Some do not notice any results, while others swear by their supplements. As these products become popular, there doesn't seem to be too much harm in trying them to see if they work.
Correct training seems to be the only real key to energy and endurance. For us to do our best, we must not neglect the proper exercises and practice required in order to bring out our full potential. There are no guarantees with supplements and they can never be depended on to replace the training we lack.