I’ve just finished running what have been my biggest mileage weeks ever. I’ve averaged over 73 km’s (45 miles) a week over the last 5 weeks. I know there are lots of people who marathon train who run a lot more than that, but there are also who run less. I’m especially happy because this is the first time I’ve come through a marathon training cycle without a single niggle, injury, concern, etc (KNOCK ON WOOD!!)
There are a few things that I’ve learned over the 10+ years that I’ve been running that I think are contributing to my recovery from all this distance. A lot of research has been done, and there are so many opinions on nutrition and what you should eat. I have some pretty strong opinions here, partially because my mom is a dietitian. I’m not going to get into the controversial topics in this post (gluten free, paleo, low carb, high fat, etc, etc)… I’m going to stick to talking about how to help your body recover best. I’ve summarized this information from a few online sources and articles that I’ve read (this McMillan article, and this article)
1. It’s best to intake something within 30 minutes of completing a workout. According to McMillan, if you ingest carbohydrates right after your workout they will store 2-3 times more glycogen than they would if you wait a few hours. What this will do is help your muscles recover their energy more quickly so that you can get back to your hard workouts sooner, and feel better in the days that follow a workout.
2. It’s also important to have some protein in addition to carbohydrates. If you ingest a ratio of somewhere between 2-1 and 4-1 carbs to protein up to 30% more glycogen will be stored.
3. There is also an optimal amount of carbs and protein. According to McMillan this is one gram of carbohydrate per lb of body weight. This means that someone who weighs 100 lbs would want to aim to consume 100 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein. He suggests doing this within 1.5-2 hrs of finishing your workout.
4. There are two windows of recovery, as McMillan refers to, it’s important to eat or drink something within 30 minutes, but there is another window from 1 to 3 hours post workout. During this window something that is higher in protein and has healthy fats and carbs is best. That’s what the so called “Experts” say… now what do I actually do?
I try to have something ready for when I’m finished my run or workout so that I can easily eat something. My favorite thing to have ready is a smoothie. I will typically blend up some protein powder, almond milk, greens (spinach, kale, etc), and fruit (including a banana and whatever else we have on hand). I find if I have it ready to go, on ice, waiting in my car, then I will always drink it after the workout. If I wait till I get home, then I get lazy, and end up not eating, or not eating the best ratio of carbs/fat/protein.
Today my Running Partner, Lori, and I ran an awesome long run, it’s just 2 weeks until marathon day, so we run a 3 km warmup, then 16 km’s at race pace (around 5:30-5:40 – but ended up as 5:28 min per km). We ran a route that was moderately hilly and kept on having to slow ourselves down because we kept looking down and seeing our pace dropping below 5:20 per km. This was a great mental boost!!
Before the run, I had prepped a smoothie to have waiting in the car for right afterwards! It was great, it had a banana, blueberries, kale, almond milk and Vega Protein powder. It totally hit the spot, and I believe will help me recover quickly from this tough long run.
It was so tasty that when I got home, my 4 year old grabbed the few gulps that were left and finished it off! Later in the afternoon I made the girls their own blueberry smoothie. Yum!
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free sample of Vega protein powder to try as a part of their #fuelyourbetter campaign. All my opinions are my own, and I really do love a good smoothie!