Nutrition is a powerful tool we can use to help our bodies to recovery more quickly and easily from the stress of racing. In fact, one of the main reasons I eat 2 run regularly is because it helps me to recover at least twice as fast as I otherwise would, and faster recovery is one of the biggest benefits I find that runners who first start ‘eating 2 run’ notice right away. So what exactly should you do to recover as quickly as possible (and be as least sore as possible) post-race?
Before I answer that question, I need to point out that sometimes the best recovery post-race is treating yourself to whatever you feel you deserve. I’m not joking. After months of adhering to a clean and whole foods nutritional plan, it might be best to take a break from both running and making the best of best choices for a few days. It won’t help your body physically recovery, but sometimes the psychological break is more than worth it. It is simply something to consider.
On October 26th I ran the Vancouver Rock n Roll Half Marathon. November 11th I ran an 8km cross-country race. And on November 15th, I ran the Revel Canyon City marathon. The first two races were run in training for my ultimate goal of the marathon. After each of these races, I took great care to follow the guidelines below. After my marathon… Well… Let’s just say I always take a few days to treat myself after a marathon. After all, this opportunity only rolls around 2 or 3 times a year!
Here are 5 tips for you to follow to help with faster post-race recovery:
1. Have a recovery shake within 20-30 minutes of crossing the finish line.
This recovery shake must be comprised of predominately carbohydrates (required to refill glycogen stores – you want about 1g carb per kg bodyweight) and a little protein (it helps to push the carbs into your glycogen stores more quickly – you want about .25g protein per kg bodyweight). It’s also best to use natural sugars (such as fruit) and avoid HFCS/glucose-fructose and other processed sugars (as they are inflammatory).
One of the best liquid bases I’ve found to use in recovery shakes is tart cherry juice, known for it’s ability to reduce inflammation and help athletes recover more quickly. Try this Cherry Berry Recovery Shake. In a pinch, just drink a cup of tart cherry juice and have a banana or a few dates or use Vega’s post-workout recovery accelerator.
2. Drink plenty of fluids for the next 24 hours to ensure you fully rehydrate.
If you were to weigh yourself before you race and again afterwards, you’d see you lost weight (water weight). You want to drink approximately 3 cups (700mL) of liquid for each pound you lose, over the next 24 hours after completing your race. You don’t have to rehydrate with only water – use also fresh juices, coconut water, teas, kombucha as well as soups and broths to re-hydrate. In fact, reaching for these alternative options to water is great because they supply electrolytes as well.
3. Eat a complete whole foods meal with good protein, healthy fats and complex carbs about 2 hours post-race.
This is when you need to provide your body with the amino acids (protein) it needs to repair muscle damage as well as healthy fats to help build strong healthy cell membranes. This meal is essential in providing you with electrolytes, antioxidants, protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats – all which play vital roles in your recovery. Don’t shy away from seasoning your meal with all-natural sea salt (not iodized table salt), as sodium is one of the key nutrients lost in sweat.
4. Continue to eat clean, wholesome foods and avoid any inflammatory foods such as alcohol, excess sugar and sugar-laden foods, processed foods and oils, and anything you have a sensitivity to, for the duration of recovery.
Racing is the most stressful situation you can put your body in (running-wise) and even though you might feel fine, it does take longer to recover from a race than it does from any hard speed/hill/interval/tempo workout you might do. Most shorter races (5, 8, 10k’s) require only a few days to a week and a half. However, for the half-marathon and especially the marathon, which causes significant muscular and cellular damage and suppresses the immune system, recovery can take 2 to 4 weeks (or longer in some cases). Generally, as we age it takes longer for us to recover. Good nutrition can help to shorten these recovery times.
5. Take fish oil (or vegan option algae) supplements and/or curcumin supplements.
These two supplements are well known for thier anti-inflammatory benefits and will help to manage the inflammation in order to allow healing to occur.
– Fish oil: Choose only high-quality fish oil to ensure both that the oil is pure, fresh and without contamination. Fish oil should not taste or smell rank and should not result in ‘fishy burbs’ (if it does, it’s rancid). I recommend using Nordic Naturals fish oils, specifically the liquid Omega-3 or liquid Ultimate Omega (I’ve personally been using Nordic Naturals for the past 4 years). Take 3-4 grams fish oil (EPA and DHA) daily for the duration of recovery.
– Curcumin supplement: Curcumin is the most active anti-inflammatory component found in turmeric spice. It’s known to be so healing that many supplement companies offer capsules of curcumin (sometimes mixed with other natural anti-inflammatories such as bromeliad or ashwagandha) to directly relief inflammation. I recommend using Inflammation Relief by AOR – it uses longvida curcumin, formulated to maximize bioavailabilitly. Take 300mg to 500mg of curcumin (curcuma longa) daily for the duration of recovery.
When you’re deciding what to eat post-race, consider whether or not the race is your ‘goal race’ or if it a race you’re using as a training race leading up to your ultimate goal race. If you’ll be taking a few weeks off regular training following the race, you might wish to celebrate and treat yourself. However, if you know you’ll be right back to training in the next day or two and you’d like to feel as good as possible as quickly as possible, then the guidelines above are for you.
Eat clean, run strong, be well… Cheers,
Sarah J Cuff, RHN
PS. Talk about using nutrition for recovery – Odette Watson chose to eat 2 run to help her recover from an injury she’d been suffering from for nearly 6 months. Within only one month, the results were so dramatic even her doctor was surprised. Not only was she given the go ahead to get back out there begin running again, she was even able to complete a road race which helped her truly feel like a runner again! Read Odette’s story here.