Recovery Foods

by Jul 4, 2013Health

One of the best parts about training so hard is that I get to eat more than I normally would, however it doesn't give me license to eat as much as I want. When I ran my first marathon, I actually gained three pounds! I felt like I could go a little crazy on my long run days and I also felt hungrier than normal because I was running more than I ever had before. It takes a long time to burn 1000 calories, unfortunately it takes one meal to make up for it. Another thing, when you are short or small-framed you are not going to burn as many calories as someone training with you that is taller or larger-framed. Case in point my Grand Canyon hike where my friend K got to eat an extra ~1000 calories a day because she is taller than me. Yes, I am jealous.

I used to eat a lot of junk food for recovery on my longest training day. Junk food for me was a lot of peanut butter and anything with refined sugar. Now I might have a treat but for the most part, I eat like I usually do just a few more calories spread throughout the day. I don't like to eat big meals and I don't like to feel full so on long training days, I sometimes feel like it is waste of time to even brush my teeth since I'll be eating again soon. Don't worry Dr. Long, I still do it 🙂

One thing I have learned is that if I am training somewhere that I have to drive to or if I am at a race, is always to have something with me. It sets me up for the next day's training session if I can eat something right away, even if it is something small until I can get real food. I don't rely on race directors any more to provide something I will eat (and I really shouldn't) however I do think that if you are going to only offer burgers, fries and hotdogs after a 24-hr race, it is only polite to buy one box of veggie burgers. Waiting until your teammates have eaten their meal and then driving until you can find something food-worthy is not on my ‘to do' list after a race but I have done it enough times to be prepared now.

For day races, I make up a recovery smoothie the night before and stick the whole thing in the freezer. That way, even if it is really hot, the smoothie is usually melted but not too much, by the time my race is over. I like Vega protein powder, peanut butter, bananas and any other fruit I can throw in there. I usually don't want anything sweet after a race because I have been taking in so much sugar and the protein afterward helps in muscle recovery. I'll also make sure I have an extra sports bar or extra bag of trail mix but I am usually so sick of these things I don't want to see another and just want real food. Once I had an apple after a race and no less than five people asked me where I got it. They just wanted real food. Not everyone wants junk.

At home after a hard training session, I try to eat something within 30 minutes, which usually consists of a smoothie or piece of fruit while I am stretching and cleaning up, and then have a real meal within the hour. If it is a hard training session, I'm usually not that hungry which doesn't mean I don't need to eat anything, just that my body is still in ‘exercise' mode and not focusing on my stomach. If I don't address it, the result is a feast two hours later that ends in tearing apart my cabinets trying to find some type of chocolate.

My go-to recovery food at home is smoothies made with frozen unsweetened fruit, sometimes fruit juice (nothing added and nothing watered down, straight-up juice), frozen bananas (this makes it extra creamy. Peel first, break the banana up into chunks and throw it in a baggy for less mess), almond butter and some type of protein. I make a smoothie as soon as I get home and drink it while stretching and sometimes while taking an ice bath. I almost always drink a couple of ounces of cherry juice a day as well to help with inflammation.

After this I can usually eat anything within the next 30 minutes or so. I try to make sure it is a high quality food but I also allow myself to eat a little junk now on the weekends (when I have my longest sessions or races) but I never let it get back to the level it was before. Even though I ran three hours or rode for six, I still don't eat the cookie the size of a pancake like I used to.

What do you use for recovery and what are your favorite post-race foods?

Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects