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Recovering From Your Endurance Event

By: Amanda Turner MS, RD, CSSD | October 12, 2016

You have trained for four or more months and tapered your training for the past two weeks. The event is here, you race your heart out, and then . . . . what? Hopefully you’ve included some type of recovery nutrition throughout your training, but does it look differently after you’re raced a higher intensity and longer duration than all of your previous training?

Recovery is extremely important when training. Getting the right type and amount of protein, carb, and fat after a workout can improve muscle and glycogen recovery and improve rate of digestion which will translate to stronger, faster, and longer workouts in the future. However, recovery will happen regardless of how quickly you get food into the body. If we delay onset of food intake, recovery will take longer. For your “A” race or primary race of the season, you are likely having a significant rest period after the event, so it isn’t as urgent of a need to eat immediately as compared to training sessions where you have another long training session the next day.

Perhaps the most difficult balance to find after a tough event is one between recovery and managing post-race GI upset (if present). GI discomfort is common due to the jostling of the stomach, elevated hear rate which decreases stomach motility, and likely dehydration which also decreases stomach motility. The number one priority after an endurance race is to start rehydrating. Choose beverages with electrolyte or a combination of water with salty foods to help with the recovery process. The second priority would then be to add protein and carbohydrate. If you’re feeling terrible after the event, don’t force yourself to eat. Do grab some fluids, get to a cool spot (or warm spot depending on time of year) and start sipping on them to help hydrate. Fluids like Gatorade, Powerade, milk, or other popular recovery beverages are great options. Milk is especially great if you can tolerate it because it not only will provide some fluids and electrolytes, but it also provides protein and carbohydrate. After you’ve started hydrating and cooled/warmed your body, your stomach function should start to improve at which time you can really focus on eating solid foods.

In short, don’t force yourself to eat and feel more sick after an intense endurance effort. Make hydration a priority immediately after the event which will help you feel better to take in food after a little delay. When you do get around to eating, grab a good protein (milk, cheese, sandwich with meat) with some high antioxidant carbs which is typically fruit or potatoes at most events.