Food and Recovery

Food and Recovery

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Kristina Bangma

By Forerunners Main Street Ambassador, Krisina Bangma

If you are running, you can eat what ever you want – right? not so much….

As endurance athletes we often think that we are burning so many calories that we can eat whatever we want and as much as we want. When in truth, athletes need to be even more careful with their diet as they are using food as fuel. Everything you put into your mouth should contain properties that will boost your performance and/or speed up your recovery.

Even though it might be fun, endurance exercise is a huge source of stress to our systems. If you can’t recover from the training stress you won’t get faster, you will just get more tired and possibly injured. How fast you recover, or if you recover at all, is highly dependant on what you are eating. What you do when you aren’t running is just as important as what you do in training.

Four keys to a faster recovery, and therefore being a faster runner, are:

1.Whole Foods
Foods that are whole, unprocessed and from a variety of sources and colours will help bring about the biggest gains to your training. Because we are busy we often grab food that is convenient. Unfortunately most convenience foods lack any real form of nourishment. If you are eating foods that aren’t in their natural state, you aren’t getting the necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are vital to helping you train hard and recover to do it again the next day. You can do lots of research on how much protein, fat and carbs you need individually but generally speaking, every meal, including snacks, should contain a portion of each of these macronutrients.

2. Simple carbohydrates – keep them for running only
If your run is less than 90 minutes long you shouldn’t need to eat anything during the workout. Your body has enough stored glycogen to last an hour and enough fat to last several hours. If your run is longer than 90 minutes, then you will need to replace your glycogen stores during the workout. These replacement calories should come mainly from easily digestible sugars such as gels, bars, fruit or liquid. Try to avoid caffeinated gels until closer to the end of the run as too much caffeine can upset your stomach and send you on a roller coaster ride. If you are following a Paleo or Ketogenic diet you can ignore this simple carbohydrate rule.

3. Timing is everything
The timing of when you eat your food is very important for recovery. Immediately after a workout, your glycogen stores are low and looking to be replenished. At this point, your muscle cells are also extra sensitive and ready to pick up nutrients. By eating a small meal of around 300 calories, you can jump start the recovery process. After this small meal, you can go back to your regular meal patterns.

4. Rest will do you good
Your body needs time to recover. If you can’t get 8 hours of sleep every night, try to get your feet up throughout the day. If you have an office job, use the time sitting at your desk to rest your legs. Reducing mental stress will also help your performance. There are numerous ways of doing this such as: reading, gentle yoga, walking a dog, getting into nature or meditating. Just make sure that your stress reliever isn’t adding more exercise.