5 Post-Race Recovery Strategies

sarah cuff Run Recovery Leave a Comment

I ran the Vancouver BMO marathon a few weekends ago. After months and months and miles upon miles of training, race day finally rolled around. I ran my heart out for what felt like EVER and finally crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 35 minutes and 7 seconds, arms over my head in celebration (unfortunately I did not achieve my sub-3:30 goal time but none-the-less I was proud of how I raced – therefore the hands-up-in-the-air pose).

The first thing I wanted was water. And sure enough, it was one of the first things handed to me, along with juice boxes, bananas, chips and I don’t even know exactly what else because all I took was the water.

I then retrieved my checked sweat bag and reached inside looking for my Chocolate Cherry Berry Recovery Shake, conveniently wrapped in a flexible ice pack – a thick elastic band strapping it to the shake container which kept it nice and cool for me. Best. Drink. Ever.

When we finish a race (or any hard or long run for that matter), there are few things we can do right away and for the remainder of the day that will help us to recover faster. Before I get into what exactly they are, let me just preface these 5 tips by saying this. Upon crossing the finish line of a huge goal race, you will likely be taking some down time from running. Therefore, seeing as you don’t need to get back out there for another intense training session, what exactly you do post-race does not matter as much as if you needed to get back out there the next day. So if it’s post-race and it’ll do you more good (psychologically) to have beer and cookies, I’ll be the last to stop you.

However, if feeling good and energized and getting in a good workout the next day is important to you – here are a few things you can do that will help you to rock your recovery:

1. Have a recovery shake within 20-30 minutes post-race/run. 

It is indeed crucial to refill our glycogen stores asap post-run – this can be done with anything from a homemade recovery shake (best option), to fresh or dried fruit or a simple pureed fruit smoothie, to a glass of tart cherry juice, to a granola bar, to chocolate milk (I do NOT recommend the chocolate milk option however, for reasons described here).

Along with re-filling your glycogen stores, it’s beneficial to provide your body the antioxidants and hydration required for healing and recovery – this (Chocolate) Cherry Berry Recover Shake will do nicely.

2. Have a complete meal 1-2 hours post-race/run. 

This is the time to provide your body protein to help with muscle repair, complex carbs to continue refilling the glycogen stores, and healthy fats to build healthy cells. Throwing leafy greens into this mix for the rich amount of vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory antioxidants they contain is extremely beneficial at this time also.

You might simply scramble up some eggs or organic tofu with baby spinach and veggies, and bake up some yam fries on the side. Or maybe some quinoa salad alongside a kale salad and some hummus. Or an on-the-go green smoothie with a couple boiled eggs and some trail mix as you rush out the door.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. But it does need to happen.

3. Get those omega-3’s into you.

When we think recovery, anti-inflammatory nutrients are the best way to go. They facilitate the healing process by managing inflammation (not extinguishing the inflammation completely as NSAID’s do – which is why NSAID’s get in the way of healing).

I always attempt to have salmon the evening of long run days or hard run days, because fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) are the best source of omega-3’s. Chia seeds, hemp hearts and flax are also good sources of omega-3’s.

You may wish to have an omega-3 supplement on hand if you aren’t certain you’re getting your whole food sources in. Just be sure it is a high quality (aka not rancid) fish oil, choose high quality brands such as Nordic Naturals.

4. Get some curcumin into you. 

Turmeric is the most anti-inflammatory spice available to us (even more so than ginger). One of it’s over 2 dozen active compounds, the strongest anti-inflammatory of them all is curcumin. Consuming a ¼ tsp of turmeric in savoury dishes daily is a good way to get this nutrient.

You might also wish to have a curcumin supplement on hand also – something you can reach for instead of Advil or other NSAID’s – such as AOR Inflammation Relief or Curcuviva (optimized for higher bioavailability).

5. Avoid alcohol, sugar and processed cooking oils.

Yes, I pretty much just told you to avoid beer and cookies (insert laughing face emoticon). Alcohol, sugar and processed cooking oils are inflammatory to the body and inhibit (and in some cases appear to completely halt) recovery.

And so this is where many runners fall down when it comes to recovery, myself included at times. Maybe that’s okay once in a while… Because I’ve learned that while “eating to run” is of utmost importance to building a strong, healthy and energized body that is resilient to injury, it’s also important to enjoy yourself too – obviously as long as it’s not to the detriment of your overall health.

After my marathon, I had my recovery shake… And that’s about it. I fell down on my next four tips (can we say wine and not-so-dark-chocolate?!). But here’s the thing. That happens precisely twice a year (I run 2 marathons per year). After any other hard or long run, I’m putting those 5 points into practice more or less 95% of the time. Which I believe is why I’ve been allowed to continue to running daily in a strong, healthy and injury-free body.

To good eats and strong running… Cheers,


Sarah J Cuff, RHN

ImagePS. Check out this awesome story of Ryan – a runner who came to me as he was training for his first marathon, and hoping to break 3 hours in it. He was interested in the fat-loading / carb-loading practice, which I guided him through in the days leading up to his race. Did he break 3 hours? Indeed, he did! But even beyond that Ryan feels that the nutrition changes he implemented helped for his marathon, but some of them he will continue using on a daily basis and believes will result in longterm improvement as well. Click here to read Ryan’s full story!

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