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Nutrition Matters

by Jennie Orr

About The Author

Nutrition Matters: Helping you meet your nutrition goals in the kitchen, in the gym, and on the run.
Jennie Orr p.dt NSDA# 1362

The road to recovery

    Recovery is an evil word, one I despise as a runner almost as much as I despise the word taper.  I think I would be happy to train all the time, but I also love to race, and with racing comes time off. Time off before the event to rest and fuel for the big day, and time off after the event to recover, rest, and give your body a break to come back even stronger.
    Basking in the afterglow of the Boston Marathon three weeks ago, the only thing I was thinking about was what delicious foods I was going to eat, and, to be honest, recovery was the farthest thing from my mind. In order to properly train, we need periods of stress and rest that allow us to grow stronger, preventing setback and injury.
   I can’t pretend I am an expert on taking time off from running, but I can tell you how to properly fuel your body after a marathon in order to come back stronger than ever.
    My top tricks for eating your way back to a happy and healthy running body after your marathon:
  •     Immediately post-race, search out some fluid, because odds are you are dehydrated. I know you have been dreaming about ice-cold beer for the last million miles, but try to hold off on this urge until you have gotten some proper fluids. Before I get yelled at, I did not say you could not have your beer. I am just saying make sure you get some water and Gatorade into you first. I recommend, immediately following your race, 2 -3 cups of fluid: half with electrolytes and half plain water. This will help hydrate you and will alleviate muscle cramps and spasms later on in the day.
  •     Try to aim for a snack 10-15 minutes after you finish to ward off hunger and start the recovery process right away. Think protein. We have concerned ourselves during most of the training period with carbs, and now it is time to switch the thinking. Yes, carbs are still important, but you just ran for hours and all those tiny tears you created in your leg muscles are screaming for protein. What does a good protein snack look like? Think 20 grams of protein. My go-to is berries with Greek yogurt if I am racing close to home, or chocolate milk if I am racing away, as many races have this beverage available at the finish line. Occasionally, I will also pack a protein bar in my checked bag to pick up after the race.
  •     Have your treat, but also focus on refueling properly. You have made it to the end of your marathon; months have gone by where you have focused on nutrition and a healthy diet, and that oh so glorious delicious poutine that has taunted you the entire last 6K of your marathon is the only thing you want to eat right now. I totally understand your need for this, but also try and get some good quality protein in as well. For example, order a grilled chicken breast or salmon and maybe even a few veggies and your side of poutine. The faster you heal those sore muscles, the sooner you will be able to run again.
  •     Plan your meals and snacks. As a side effect of being awesome and running for hours, for the next few days following your marathon you will be hungry, like every minute of the day. Try not to go too long without eating and plan your snacks out ahead of time. Think lots of protein and veggies, some carbs and good fats to lubricate those aching joints. It is so easy after your goal race is over to let nutrition slide, but the easiest and fastest way to recover is feeding your body lots of good nutrients with a few occasional treats, because, he, you earned it.