If you’re a runner you might have heard of depletion runs. If you haven’t heard of depletion runs, I’ll explain. Depletion runs are a short or long run without eating before the run and without fuel on the run.
The body is used to having fuel during most of the training that we do but what happens when we hit the wall during a race? Are we mentally prepared to handle the feeling of being completely drained? Most likely we won’t unless we train to hit the wall during our training runs.
Many of the best runners from east Africa run on empty all the time and you should do it too.
Here are some reasons why you should be adding depletion runs to your program.
Makes you fat adapted
Have you ever heard of the S.A.I.D principle? If you haven’t it means specific adaptation to imposed demand. Basically, your body will adapt to the environment or stress that you place on it. If you run without carbs as fuel your body must learn to use fat as the primary fuel source.
Your body can only hold about 1500-2000 calories from carbs at any given time. One pound of fat had 3500 calories and using fat as fuel will make sure that you have plenty of energy for the entire race. The catch is that you must deplete the carbs in your body to train it to use fat. Using a depletion run will have your body starting with limited carbs helping your body to adapt even better to using fat as a fuel source.
Become Mentally Prepared
If you’re running a marathon having a strong mind is one of the most important factors to race performance. The feeling of being tired is in your mind and you can build a tolerance to the feeling by running in a depleted state. I’ve run 3 marathons and 10 half marathons and being mentally prepared for the marathon is hands down the most important part of the equation. I try to use strategies like running on tired legs and hitting a faster pace running downhill but these all don’t even come close to the benefits of running with no fuel. When I wake up for a depletion run I go out running with a growling stomach. When I start the run, I feel weak and after few miles it feels like the last 6 miles of a marathon. Prepping my mind to deal with the challenge of the last 6 miles before the race even starts is huge.
Burn More Fat
Running in a fasted state may help you lose body fat faster which will make you a lighter runner. Having less body fat will help you improve your pace because you won’t be carrying extra pounds on your run. Try running for a few miles with a few extra pounds on your body. Do you think that this will cause you to run slower? Most likely yes. A few extra pounds of muscle in your legs may help you run a little faster but fat will not help at all. When you go out on a fasted run your body will start burning more fat because it doesn’t have the carbs as fuel. This depleted state may help you shed more body fat which will make you a better runner overall. Also, you will look better at the beach which is a great side bonus of burning more fat. Keep in mind that running fasted may cause you to lose a little muscle too.
When to use, Depletion Runs?
When should you use, depletion runs? Every run shouldn’t be a depletion run. If you run in a fasted state every time you go out your performance will suffer. Your body needs fuel to go fast and it’s important to get those hard training runs in. I like to use depletion runs every few weeks during my deload week when my body is resting. Runs during this week aren’t designed to improve performance and it’s a great opportunity to train your mind to be ready for the race. I even do long runs in a depleted state. I also tend to program one depleted run during the week to keep me mentally ready for the race.
Using a depletion run in your program might be what you need to take your running to the next level. When you feel, the wall coming during a race you will be mentally ready to break the wall down and keep moving. Using depletion runs may help you become a better fat burner which will make you a lighter and better runner overall.