Heather Caplan

Written by Heather Caplan

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Post-Race Nutrition. Learn How To Make A Speedy Recovery.

You’ve crossed the finish line. Your legs can finally slow down. But your pulse is still racing from the adrenaline. Maybe you met your goal, maybe you didn’t. Next comes post-race nutrition.

Either way, you’re done. Spent. Thrilled to put the race behind you, and proceed to the finisher’s area, medal on neck, relief washing over.

Yet, here you are, looking at the choices for your post-race nutrition, and not one single thing is appetizing. Or, you’re confused about what you “should” be eating versus what sounds good to you in this exact moment.

Haven’t Raced Yet? Then Check This Out

Learn about the nutritional needs during taper, the truth about the pre-race pasta meal and what to do the morning of your race. An interview with RunnersConnect Nutritionist Heather Caplan.

For more about Heather Caplan and to read her blog, please visit HeatherCaplan.com.

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What now?

Depending on how your race day went, and the elements du jour, your post-race nutrition may be influenced by everything from hunger to nausea to ambivalence.

Sure, you “should” eat because you just put your body through a hard effort and it’s time to replenish your energy stores. But your appetite may feel off.

You feel like you should be concerned about post-race nutrition, because now is the time to help your body start recovering and reap the benefits of your efforts.

You look around and see others noshing away on the free bagels, bananas, chewy bars, and (if you’re a trail racer), candy spread. And now, even with a low appetite, the choices have paralyzed you.

Tight On Time? Take A Listen On Your Next Run

Listen to a podcast with Heather Caplan on the subject of nutrition, healthy eating, Orthorexia and much more.

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What should you keep in mind for you own post-race nutrition on race day?

First – There is no set of rules for individual post-race nutrition

What will sound appetizing to you in that moment may change by the day. Or as you become more experienced at a specific race distance. Be okay with taking it easy on yourself with post-race nutrition, instead of trying to eat the perfect post-race snack.

That said, if you’ve run a longer distance, such as a 10-miler, half marathon, or full marathon I do recommend getting in some fuel within 30 minutes after you finish running.

Grab a high-carbohydrate snack from the buffet of free options available to race finishers. Or, pack a post-race nutrition snack of your own. If you’re driving, or can check a bag, bring a high-carbohydrate snack from home.

Want some snack ideas? Then read The Best Carbohydrates For Runners.

Second Try to eat something with a mix of carbohydrates and protein

To be honest, most post-race nutrition options aren’t providing the ideal mix of protein and carbohydrates. Some larger races have more variety, and trail races often include things like sandwiches, burritos, or even a full BBQ buffet.

If possible, pack or grab a sports nutrition bar (e.g. PickyBars—which do have the 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio with each bar), or pack some trail mix with a piece of fruit.

Other post-race nutrition snacks that may not spoil in your car or checked bag: granola or cereal, peanut butter-and-jelly (or nutella) sandwiches, dried fruits, and nut butter.

Want even more ideas? Then read 6 Ways To Improve Your Post Run Recovery.

Third – Have a meal within an hour

Your post-race nutrition isn’t complete with this snack. Again, if you’ve raced a distance longer than 10 miles, it’s likely you need a full meal within one to two hours.

Plan a brunch with friends, find a restaurant nearby on your way home, plan something to make at home, or pack your meal to go.

However you can make it happen. Aim to replenish your energy stores and help the recovery process by starting with a balanced meal.

I’m an advocate for eating what sounds appetizing to you, while also paying attention to nutrient balance. Aim to eat something that mixes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your post-race meal.

Post-race nutrition and your recovery don’t stop on race day.

So often I hear about runners who spend the week after their goal race overeating to the point of discomfort. Some use training as a way to enforce strict dietary rules, which often backfires in the week(s) following their hard effort and long training cycle. It’s a natural response to restriction and dietary rules.

Get ahead of your post-race nutrition efforts by fueling adequately and mindfully during your training cycle. Resist the urge to enforce strict food rules, or to follow a training “diet”, and you’ll be less likely to overeat after your race. Read, Mindful Eating for Runners — A Common Sense Approach to learn more.

Remember that one snack, followed by one meal, is probably not all your body needs to recover from your race. Continue to focus on balanced meals and satisfying cravings you may have on race day.

In the days and week(s) that follow, focus your post-race nutrition on meeting hunger needs and resting. Tune into what your body needs, rest, nutrients, and respect. Don’t restrict your energy intake simply because you aren’t running “as much.”

When Healthy Eating Is Unhealthy

Listening to your body is critical. Learn more in this discussion about Orthorexia, an eating disorder associated with too healthy of a diet. An interview with Heather Caplan, RunnersConnect nutritionist.

For more about Heather Caplan and to read her blog, please visit HeatherCaplan.com.

Alternatively, try not to overeat since you aren’t running. In either case, you may experience uncomfortable gastrointestinal distress, trouble sleeping, and/or delayed recovery.

Continue to mix carbohydrates with proteins and fats at meals and snacks in your prolonged post-race nutrition efforts. A good practice, in general.

In the time immediately following your race, your muscles are still trained for strength and endurance.  Meaning their needs are still elevated. Don’t ignore hunger signs, or skimp on any one nutrient.

Help yourself bounce back quickly for your next race

Getting a variety of nutrients, and foods as part of your post-race nutrition will help with muscle recovery and fitness maintenance.

Satisfy your hunger and cravings, while helping your body bounce back from the hard effort of your race. And keep post-race nutrition in mind for a few weeks, especially if you plan to start training again soon.

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References

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