Are you running a marathon this year? While you may feel like just collapsing (or chugging a beer) after the big race, what you consume after the finish line will significantly impact your body's recovery.
The best time to restore your muscle energy and fluids is immediately. Refuel depleted muscles with a meal that includes primarily carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, pasta, or rice.
Consuming carbohydrates within the first 20 to 30 minutes has been shown to optimize recovery because muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen stores (stored glucose) within the first 30 minutes after exercise.
A second and equally important component of recovery is consuming protein for muscle repair. Protein can be found in meat, dairy, fish, or other sources. (Vegetarians: Think beans, legumes, and soy).
For optimal recovery, consume carbs and protein in an approximate 4:1 ratio. This means about 4 g of carbohydrates for every 1 g of protein.
For example, enjoy:
- Fruit smoothie with whey protein
- Whole grain cereal with milk and fruit
- Meat sauce on pasta
A great post-run meal is Greek yogurt with hearty granola and a banana. Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt, providing your muscles with much-needed building for repair and recovery. Also, the granola contains carbohydrates to help replenish your energy stores.
Running long distances depletes your body's electrolytes and antioxidants, so replenish with colorful fruits and fruit juices, such as vitamin-rich berries and potassium-loaded bananas. Sip fluids throughout the day to combat fluid losses, and continue to replenish electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) by eating small, frequent meals throughout the day.
Many people associate electrolytes with sports drinks. While sports drinks provide the sodium and potassium lost in sweat, these bottled drinks provide very little nutritional value—and your body is craving calories with sustenance. Instead, replenish lost electrolytes with fresh fruit or fruit juice, which will also provide some carbohydrates. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate you further.
A large, balanced meal will likely contain some of everything you need, but be sure to consume carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes in your post-race snack. Also, you've put your body through extensive physical exertion, so if you have a craving for something—eat it. Your body is probably telling you something—and you deserve it.Perfect your nutrition to boost your performance. Sign up for a race near you.