Have you ever noticed how you feel sluggish when you are tapering on race week? Even with a reduced load, you feel tired all the time, hungry and that create a huge self doubt if you are fit enough for the race or you won’t get enough time to rest.
Why does that happens?
When we switch into ‘taper’ mode after a long period of consistent training, we make a journey from one state of physicality into another. What is happening is that your body is moving from “fight” mode into “heal” mode. The training systems that were on fire are shutting down because you are no longer subjecting your body to the physical training (stress) stimuli.
This change means that the balance of hormones in your body is changing. The level hormones secreted to sustain your high levels of physical exertion during training is dropping, while the level of “restoration” hormones is increasing. This change translates to a sensation of fatigue in the body.
One of those hormones that are changed is insulin. You were training hard and long, your muscles cells were always on the need of glycogen, it means that a tiny amount of insulin, was enough to refill your cells.
But as you decrease training hours and intensity, you will need more insulin to cope with the ratio of grams of carbohydrate & units of insulin.
Basically, I had to use 3 times more insulin on the day before a race, compared to what I was using on normal training days. Of course that to realize that, I had many pre-race Saturdays of high blood glucose levels, it took me a few tapers to understand what was happening with me, why I needed so much more insulin for the same size and sort of meals.
The basal insulin mentioned below is above is supposed to cover only the sugar that is released by your liver during the day and night. The healthy athlete produces only one sort of insulin, while most diabetics that are not in an insulin-pump treatment, are on 2 or more types of insulin. On the top o the basal insulin, that I injected myself every night I had to take a “bolus”, that is, a super fast-acting insulin that would cover all my meals.
The numbers are scary, here are some examples:
- Units of Basal Insulin and blood glucose released by your liver.
–I needed 10 units per day in normal training days
–For a race on Sunday, I would need to increase this
number by Wednesday to Friday up to 20 units (100%)
–As I usually take a day off on Friday, by Saturday, my insulin reception was so poor, that I would take up to 30 units of ‘basal’ insulin (that’s 3 times more than the normal!!!)
- Units of fast-acting insulin and Grams of Carbs:
–A normal breakfast with ~100g of carbs, required 5 units of “fast-acting insulin”, that was usually after my first training session in the morning (more about timing of meals coming out soon!)
–The same 100g of carbs in the morning before the race, required up to 16 units of fast-acting insulin.
Remember that for your next taper. Don’t over eat, as your body is already under a huge load and hormonal change, rest properly, sleep well and let your muscles get full replenished with CHO for the race day.