By Cushla Holdaway on 11th December 2020 Nutrition
What to ask yourself:
· How long have you run for?
· At what intensity were you running at?
· What type of run did you undertake?
· Do you have specific body composition goals?
· What foods do you love?
· When is my next main meal?
· When did you last eat?
When refuelling your body after exercise the primary goal is to promote muscle protein synthesis (MPS), rehydrate, and boost the body’s adaptation to the training load. I like to talk about the three ‘R’s of recovery, that is, refuel (carbohydrates), repair (protein) and rehydrate (fluids). If you are a more competitive runner with training sessions close together, for example, multiple sessions in a day, then adequate recovery becomes even more crucial to performance.
The risks or inadequate nutrition after running:
· ↑ muscle soreness/discomfort;
· ↑ overall fatigue both in training and day-to-day life;
· ↓ immune system response;
· ↓ MPS with subsequent↓ adaptation to training load;
· ↓ effort at your next training session due to ↑ fatigue; and
· ↓ gains from training sessions leading to ↓ overall performance.
A question I commonly get asked is when and what people should be eating after training. Re-hydration should start ASAP, but the urgency on food intake, particularly carbohydrates and protein depends on the ‘questions to ask yourself’ above. The best time for food consumption after exercise is within 30 to 90 minutes after running has ceased. This is because the body is at its most efficient state to replace carbohydrate stores (called glycogen) and repair and rebuild muscles during this time. However, this recovery process is also increased to a lesser extent for the 12 to 24 hours after training as it’s continuous process. Depending on what time of the day you train will likely dictate if the recovery fuel is more of a snack or a main meal. For example, if you typically train mid-afternoon then you may just need a light-snack for recovery to bridge you over until dinner, or if you typically train in the morning then the recovery fuel is likely to be consumed as breakfast/brunch afterwards. Your ideal recovery food should have a wholesome source of carbohydrates, a lean source of quality protein, and fluid. The idea of this is to replenish used fuel stores (glycogen), repair and build muscle tissue, and re-hydrate. Rehydration is vital as body fluid loss of just 2% can have very detrimental impacts on performance, which is merely a loss of 1.2kg of fluid in a 60kg person.
Below are some ideas to get you on track with running recovery. The quantity of food and the food choices depends on the ‘what to ask yourself’ questions above:
· Flavoured milk (e.g. calci-yum, calci-strong, NOT high sugar luxury milks);
· Smoothie: Greek yoghurt + banana + berries + milk/water;
· Smoothie: fruit + vegetables + low-fat yoghurt/milk + protein powder of your choice;
· Smoothie pick and mix – refer to the images below;
· Poached eggs + wholegrain toast + avocado/spinach/tomatoes/hummus + water;
· Weetabix + milk + topped with yoghurt + sliced fruit + water;
· Lean meat + wholegrain bread roll + salad fillings + water;
· Wholegrain crackers + cheese OR a small can of salmon/tuna + water;
· Wholegrain toast + your favourite nut butter + water;
· Wholegrain crackers + cottage cheese + water;
· Apple/banana/pear + 1 – 2 Tbsp. nut butter + water; or
· Brown rice + salmon + non-starchy vegetables = water.
The ideas above are just some food examples, but the delicious options are endless! You may have noticed that all of the above ideas contain a combination of carbohydrates and protein, this is key! Always include a fluid if the recovery meal isn’t fluid-based (such as flavoured milk or a smoothie), preferably water, unless re-hydration requirements are higher or the recovery window is short. Sports drinks or electrolytes are a great tool for re-hydration and replenishing carbohydrate stores rapidly when recovery periods are short. However, these are not as essential after shorter (<90 mins) training sessions, lighter training sessions, or for the typical recreational runner.