I’ve often stated here, on the eat2run blog, that upon completing a goal race it’s perfectly acceptable to go off and ‘eat 2 celebrate’ instead of ‘eat 2 run’ because you’ll likely be taking some downtime post-race. There’s no need to refill the glycogen stores quickly when you’re taking the next few days off. And the need to facilitate post-run muscle recovery, while important, isn’t a priority when you won’t be asking those muscles to perform again for you in the next little while.
However, implementing a few strategies to keep inflammation in check post-race will help lower levels of post-race pain and soreness… And even if we’re not running the next day, we still want to feel good and be able to walk normally the next day, right?!! These tips and tricks will have you recovering as fast as possible while still enjoying a few celebratory treats!
1. Drink 1 cup Tart Cherry Juice Daily
In the 7 days leading up to your race, drink 1 cup (8oz / 250mL) of tart cherry juice (or 2 Tbsp tart cherry juice concentrate) each day. Drink a ½ to 1 cup also on race morning, and again immediately post-race. Continue to drink 1 cup tart cherry juice each day for 2 to 3 days post-race.
This has been shown to minimize post-run muscle pain, as demonstrated by this study that looked at distance runners who reported significantly less levels of post-race pain when using tart cherry juice as compared to placebo.
Additionally, this study shows us that tart cherry juice appears to aid in the recovery of muscle function by relieving post-marathon pain and reducing post-race inflammation. It also increases total antioxidative capacity and accounts for less cellular damage by free radicals.
If you’re on the road, hit up a Whole Foods if possible to find tart cherry juice; or bring dried tart cherries with you (90-100 cherries = 1 cup tart cherry juice).
2. Consume ½ tsp Ginger and/or ½ tsp Cinnamon Daily
Many studies have shown just how anti-inflammatory ginger is, and somewhat less have examined the anti-inflammatory benefits of cinnamon – but this study in particular compared both ginger and cinnamon to a placebo. Utilizing 60 healthy athletic women who engaged in heavy training it was found that administration of ginger or cinnamon in athletes for six weeks showed a decrease in muscle soreness compared to the placebo group.
On an ongoing daily basis, for at least 6 weeks before your race as well after your race, add ½ tsp of ginger (or a small piece of fresh ginger – a 1-inch piece = 1 Tbsp dried) to your daily smoothie or breakfast or cooking or baked snacks. If you’re travelling, you may find ginger tea bags the easiest way to get ginger into you, or at the very least use crystallized ginger (1 to 2 pieces per day).
Additionally (I guess I could actually say OR here also, the study showed you only need to one or the other), add a ½ tsp of cinnamon to your daily breakfast or cooking or baked snacks. If you are traveling, pack cinnamon to sprinkle on any oatmeal or cereals or meals and use teas that have cinnamon in them also.
3. Take 3g (3000mg) of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Daily
In the 7 days leading up to your race, take 3 grams (or 3,000mg) of omega-3 fatty acids daily (preferably made up of 2,000mg EPA and 1,000mg DHA). For example, if you were to choose Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega liquid (my personal favourite and the brand I use), you would need to take 1 tsp daily. I would continue to take it post-race and at least for the next 7 days following your race also. If you are travelling you may find capsules easier to take with you.
Omega-3 fatty acids are well known for being highly anti-inflammatory, and this reviewsums up how omega-3 fatty acids can be effectively utilized to reduce DOMS post-exercise. In other words, taking omega-3s in the days leading up to our race has been shown to be effective in helping us experience less pain than we normally might in the 24 to 48 hours post race.
In the weeks and days leading up to your race, drink tart cherry juice, eat / drink lots of ginger and cinnamon, and strategically utilize omega-3 fatty acids for race day – and you’ll be on your way to recovering faster and stronger than ever!
To deliciously healthy food and stronger faster running… Cheers,
Sarah J Cuff, RHN
PS. One of my amazing clients, Mary Murray, crossed the finish line of the Chicago Marathon last month after not only training hard but focussing on nutrition to support her running, something she’d never done before. She was happy to find that it was simply, easy to follow and quite tasty. Exactly what she needed as a beginner cook! Her energy levels shot up and she noticed an improvement in her running performance and recovery. Click here to read more about the difference ‘eating 2 run’ has made in Mary’s running and her life!