Nutrition Before, During & After Your Run-Part III
The final installment of my three part series on nutrition will focus on what to eat AFTER your run.
WHY WE EAT AFTER WE RUN
The goal of eating after your run is to rebuild your stored glycogen levels that you worked so hard to deplete while exercising. Hopefully you did your part to maintain them the best you could DURING the run by intaking the appropriate contents and amounts. I’d say that the gels and bars you consumed should have more or less fended off a crash during your workout but after your run is when you really need to eat to replenish and build back up those stores.
Usually the magic window is around 30 minutes following your run that you NEED to eat. It is good to set out your food as a reminder to eat upon return from run. If you are driving to a trail head or other locale some distance away, bring your food with you to eat on the way home. If it’s a race, you better go hit up the free food offered at most finish lines. Get something in you before you start your cool down, that is, if you are a cool down type of guy (or gal).
The reason why this is so important is because with the carbohydrate and protein intake comes decreased potential for debilitating soreness, potential for injury, and sickness. As we speak, I am sitting on my bed writing this while recovering from a 20 mile trail run I did this morning. I need my legs to recover fast so I can hit my weekly mileage goal and be ready for the Eugene Marathon in May. If I can’t run tomorrow because of soreness, a tweaked tendon, or sickness that could have been avoided had I simply ate the right post-run food, I wouldn’t be a happy camper. In fact, I would be a very angry, borderline psychotic camper for sure.
POST RUN INTAKE OPTIONS
One way to make sure that you are getting what you need is to purchase a product that contains all the contents your body needs to recover quickly and get you back out there the next day. Due to my partiality to Hammer Nutrition, I will use their product as an example. Hammer Nutrition claims that “how well you perform tomorrow depends on how well you recover today.” I think this is as true as true can be. Recoverite (strawberry is my favorite flavor… even though it looks like cocaine) offers a 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein with only 3 of the carbs coming from sugars. Recoverite also contains glutamine which stimulates muscle repair.
I like the taste of Recoverite but I’ve heard from others that it’s not the tastiest stuff in the world. So how important is your running to you? Important enough to drink something whose taste you are not in love with? I hope so. I usually mix the two scoops of powder in cold water and pound it. I also went through a stage where I mixed it with orange juice to help with processing some of the contents of Recoverite. Whatever it takes.
Now, if your wallet, tastes, or your inclination for more natural goods doesn’t agree with Recoverite, there are other options. I am off Recoverite now due to shrinking wallet syndrome and have picked up a more natural option for recovery myself. My recovery meal is now half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk. Mmm. Mmmm. Mmmmmmm. It is yummy my friends. Just keep in mind that it is a little heavier on the old sugary goodness.
There are a million food combinations to get basically the same result so if you don’t like the Recoverite or my favorite, here are the contents you are looking for; healthy carbohydrates and protein! That’s basically it! Drink a good amount of water, preferably with electrolytes in it, and get in some protein and carbs, it’s as simple as that.
One final note; don’t go overboard on the quantity. It’s easy to say, “man I just worked so hard, time for a big reward!” You probably didn’t burn THAT many calories. I can put on weight even while exercising 45 minutes a day. There was a time when I could eat whatever I wanted all the time, and sometimes I feel like I still can when I’m putting out really high mileage weeks, but in general, quantity must be held in check. I’ve found that if I force myself to eat slowly, I end up eating less. Don’t scarf your bagel down in two bites, try 10 bites, one per minute. It takes awhile for the food to hit the stomach and then expand with moisture which leads to feeling full. Give the food time. Otherwise, you’ll be two bagels down when the first one would have been enough had you let it settle.
So there you have it! Nutrition for runners in a nutshell. I hope you found something of value in this three part series. If you have any specific questions on any of this stuff, please send me an email or leave a comment at any time.
Smart nutrition leads to sustainable, enjoyable running. Period.
Have fun out there!