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Friday, October 07, 2005

An Apple a Day

All week I have felt exhausted. Worn down by a busy work schedule and the feeling that every day is a long day, I have fallen into bed each night and slept the sleep of the dead. However, even though I slept the deep, hard sleep of the truly tired, I haven't felt refreshed all week and I crave more time with my eyes closed. As you can imagine, this makes it difficult to find the energy to run, and usually when I feel like I'm low on energy, I reach for a reliable stimulant: caffiene.

Yet, yesterday, I was told that by eating an apple instead of drinking a caffeinated beverage, I would feel more energized and more awake. I mulled this idea over and wonder if it could be true, so today I looked it up on the Internet, and sure enough, I found an article that explored just such a concept.

I guess the biology is simple and the idea is not so revolutionary, yet it had been something I had have never thought of. An average apple contains 20 grams of carbs, and as any runner knows, carbs are our energy. Now, I'm not a biology instructor, nor do I completely absorb all that I am told about human phsyiology, but simply put, carbohydrates are broken down into various kinetic uses in the body -- kinda like adding logs to the fire. So it makes sense that eating an apple and getting all those sugars would help boost your energy, as would any fruit.

Caffeine, on the other hand, affects your brain, like any other drug. Caffeine parades around in your brain looking like adenosine (which causes drowsiness -- it tells nerve receptors to start slowing down acitivity and to get ready for sleep), and well, these nerve receptors think caffeine is adenosine and they bind to one another. So, instead of feeling sleepy, the cells now feel excited and ready to go; you now have increased neuron firing in the brain, and your pituary gland sees this and thinks there must be some kind of emergency, so it releases adreneline into the blood stream.

Now, we all know what adreneline does: It's the fight or flight hormone designed to enable us to run away from a threat or fight it off. So adreneline dilates our pupils, raises our heartbeat, increases blood flow, tightens muscles, and the liver releases sugar into the system for quick energy. That's why it seems like a run is so much easier if you consume caffeine about thirty minutes before a run (which some running trainers recommend). However, you can come to rely on caffeine, and it is considered an addictive drug, and no runner wants to rely on something -- we want to develop our own reliance. That's why we run.

So, I suppose eating an apple is the better energy solution. It helps add energy naturally to the body's chemistry and you'll burn off those carbs in a run anyway. I suppose I should reach less for the coffee and more for the apples. Maybe we all should.


Kurt in Boston said...

I've found apples to be great before a run. The great thing about them is that they release the energy into your system slowly. They have a low glycemic index (so I've read). Oranges, on the other hand, are great after a run because they release their energy into your system quickly.

But I'm not giving up one ounce of my coffee!

Keep running!

Jeremy said...

But coffee is so good! :)

Very informative post.