We're getting nerdy a little bit today on this episode of Runner's High. But don't worry, we're not quite going back to biology class, although we're going to touch on it a little bit. We want to talk about what's actually happening inside your body for the first 30 minutes of running.
Welcome to Runner's High, a show where we talk about everything running. I'm your host Jesse Funk. If you love running, you love endurance sports. This is the channel for you. Stick around. Hit the subscribe button for more episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.
So I've been waiting to kind of cover this topic for a little while. I'm not quite sure why I've been putting it off, but we want to talk about what's going on inside your body when you are running well, say, for 30 minutes. But a lot of these processes continue on regardless of whether you're going for 30 minutes or 60 minutes or 24 hours, like these processes are useful and have to be modified a little bit in terms of taking fuel as you go longer, but all basically apply.
So let's talk about what's happening at the beginning and then as time progresses. So first things first. When you start moving, when you start running, your body needs to produce energy. Where does that come from for that nice little thing we call glycogen? Where does glycogen come from? It is sugar stored in your muscles for quick energy release.
More importantly, it comes from a process called the Krebs Cycle. It looks like this. My video editor will put it on the screen somewhere. If you took high school biology, I can almost guarantee that you went over the Krebs cycle. It's where your body takes ATP, adenosine triphosphate, takes a phosphate molecule off of it, uses that as energy potential so that your body can move and then later puts the phosphate back on so they can turn back into a dizzy triphosphate from adenosine triphosphate and then begin the cycle all over again with action potentials and taking the phosphate off and putting it back on. And it's just a whole thing that we do as a aerobic activity.
That being said, the source of fuel being used here is glycogen. When you start out that stored sugar because it's more readily available for burning to make that energy, do we need to move? But it isn't sufficient for a long term activity. So our body actually has to call for reserves when we begin moving. That need to come in and kind of help out and share the majority of the work when it comes to creating energy.
And that call for calvary, the call for backup is from the fat stores in your body. Now, it doesn't matter how fat or skinny, I'm not sure what the correct way to say that is, how much fat you have on your body. You've got enough.
Basically, regardless of your body fat content, you pretty much have enough fat to continue going for as long as you can possibly go aerobically, which is why it is such a big source of energy for us, regardless of our leanness, because we can use it essentially for infinity. Obviously, that's not entirely accurate. But as far as our body can continue, while muscles are still functional, there's plenty there versus glycogen, that thing that burns faster.
Our body only stores about 2 hours worth of it until just fat's got to take over entirely, or we have to produce more lactic acid, and that's actually going to slow down our ability to use our muscles because then we can't remove the lactic acid fast enough from the muscles, thus the burning and eventually hitting the wall.
So we begin again using glycogen to start with that Krebs cycle, that aerobic production of energy. Then our body starts trying to use fat. Now it isn't one or the other, it is a mixture. We're using a little bit of both and depending on the speed that you're going, also changes how much of each you're going to use. The faster you go, the more likely your body is to use sugar as a source of fuel. Or once you get into anaerobic phase, the part where the oxygen anaerobic production that Krebs cycle can't keep up, then you start producing lactic acid because it's even faster but also more limited way of producing energy.
So assuming that we're going up for anaerobic run, we don't have to worry too much about that high end of the sugar thing running out because we're probably going out for 30 minutes, as I stated in the beginning of this video. So we have sugar, we have fat burning now. So what's happening as we're doing this?
You guessed it, heat. There is a lot of heat production that goes along with this energy production. So we don't use all of the energy 100% efficiently. Unfortunately, there is loss due to heat. And because we want to maintain our body temperature, what do we do? We sweat. It's a unique feature that we have as mammals. We sweat. We have sweat glands. Thus the need to take in water for long, long runs, 30 minutes and under. Probably fine. Probably we don't need to unless it's just ridiculously hot outside. In which case, why are you running?
But for 30 minutes, you're probably fine. And that's kind of the long short of what's going to go on for that 30 minute period. The other thing I think is worth mentioning that's probably going to go on as far as the basic biology of what's happening is this that your body is going to produce dopamine. And in some instances, the namesake of this show runner's high will occur because your body produces these cannabinoids.
Yes. Like cannabis cannabinoids, these neurotransmitters that attach to our dopamine receptors, that one. And then also the cannabinoid receptors. So you get a literal high. Now that being said, I left this to the end because it often is thought, at least by research, that it doesn't typically happen for runs under 30 minutes. It's usually runs over 30 minutes where this is a more prevalent phenomenon. I also would suggest that it also depends on your tolerance in that if you run all of the time, you're not going to be as affected because you kind of gotten a new baseline level of experience.
That's also why if you take a big taper or you take time off, often people will feel depressed because they're not getting that regular source of dopamine and those cannabinoids that our brains are producing to make us feel good. So that's something to keep in mind. Even though you do need rest when you've taken a lot of time to train, there is a period where you have to take off and sometimes just go through a little bit of that depression.
So what other questions do you have for me about running? If you subscribe and leave them down in the comments, I'll make a video just for you answering you in the future. I'll see you on the next episode of Runner's High.