What Runners Can Learn From Bodybuilders

Photo: Scott Draper

Anabolic And Catabolic Energy Pathways

To maximize recovery, runners need to keep their bodies in a muscle-building state (or, more scientifically, an anabolic state). Running causes the muscles to break down and form micro tears, which then need to be repaired in order to get stronger and faster.  Anabolism is the metabolic pathway that repairs these muscle fibers and stimulates muscle growth.

The body needs energy for the anabolic process to occur. With an adequate supply of energy and nutrients, the body can quickly rebuild muscle and allow you to recover faster.  However, when your body doesn’t have adequate fuel to sustain the anabolic process, it begins to break down muscle to supply the body with the energy it needs. This breakdown of muscle tissue is called catabolism.

RELATED: Why Strength Work Isn’t Enough

It’s pretty obvious to bodybuilders why you wouldn’t want to break down muscle tissue — muscles are the reason they spend hours in the gym. That’s why they consume protein shakes like runners do ice cream.

Unfortunately, most runners fear that building muscle will “get them big”, so they avoid muscle-building nutrients like protein. This causes many runners to be in a perpetual state of catabolism, which hampers recovery and doesn’t maximize fitness gains.

The truth is using protein intelligently (and, more importantly, at the right times) won’t make you bigger at all. In fact, it may help you get you leaner , not to mention recover faster. In the next couple pages I’ll identify the two main types of protein supplements runners should use, as well as explain when these supplements should be implemented into the diet in order to maximize recovery.

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