Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Post-Race Recovery Nutrition

No matter how full your event schedule is this season, it is important to properly recover from all of your races and training workouts. This means good post-exercise nutrition, proper stretching (something I’m not always good about), and rest days (but not too many).

Here’s a plan I developed one year for my first race of the season (note: this is based on both science and my personal experience):

Post-race nutrition recommendations

Within thirty minutes of finishing, consume:

  • Carbs (1-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight)
  • Protein (10-20 grams)
  • Fluids (16-24 fluid ounces for every pound lost)
  • Electrolytes, particularly sodium (1 pound of sweat loss contains about 100 mg potassium and 400-700 mg sodium depending on whether you’re a salty sweater, which I think I am)
My real world plan

Since the particular race I did was only an eight-mile race, I went with the lower end of the carbohydrate recommendation, which for me is about 62 grams of carbohydrate. Since I didn’t weigh myself before and after the race to determine exactly how much water weight I lost (and I haven’t bothered to do training runs where I calculate my sweat rate), I had to estimate. I drank one packet of Generation UCAN chocolate protein shake (33 grams carb, 13 grams protein, 140 mg potassium, 240 mg sodium) made with 12 ounces soymilk (15 grams carb, 9 grams protein, 150 mg sodium, 450 mg potassium) and 20 ounces of G2 (12 grams carb, 75 mg potassium, 270 mg sodium).

Grand total: 60 grams carbohydrate, 22 grams protein, 660 mg sodium, 665 mg potassium, and 32 ounces of fluid (plus I probably drank another 8 or so ounces of plain water as well). I was a little high on the potassium (who knew soymilk was such a good source?!), but otherwise I was pretty spot on.

Post-race recovery

Cool down: To burn as much lactate from your legs as possible (and lessen soreness), it’s recommended to go for a short slow jog or walk after a running race. I’m not hard core enough to go for a run after a run, but I made an effort to walk around after the race. Any movement helps. Definitely don’t jump straight into a car; you’ll regret it later!

Stretching: Stretch after cooling down to help keep your muscles as loose as possible. I’m not always good about stretching, but I spent at least a few minutes stretching all of the muscles in my legs, butt, and hips. I didn’t have my foam roller on me after the race, but I used it later in the day.

Rest days: I once heard an exercise physiology professor say that an athlete’s rest days are actually the most important training days; they’re when our bodies really heal and recover, allowing them to work harder in the future and get stronger. I went for a bike ride the day after this race to keep my legs loose, took the next day completely off, then resumed with an easy run the day after that. Then back on to full on training for my next events!

So that was my plan. Take what you find helpful and tweak it for yourself. Good luck!

Want expert help with planning your post-race recovery? Click here to find out how we can help! You can also check out our pre-made meal plans and our eBook on post-workout recovery nutrition.

Peaks Coaching Group Jen Sommer
Jen Sommer is a registered dietitian, a certified specialist in sports dietetics, a former NASM certified personal trainer, and a self-appointed mountain girl. As a cyclist, skier, hiker, and runner (among other things), she knows firsthand the importance of proper nutrition and training. She offers nutrition coaching and consulting through Peaks Coaching Group. Find more great tips, recipes, and articles at Jen's blog, Mountain Girl Nutrition and Fitness. Jen can be contacted through Peaks Coaching Group or at info@peakscoachinggroup.com

Photo: PCG athlete Ben Strine takes 6th at the Men’s Cat 3 Turkey Hill Country Classic