Nutrition Recovery for Endurance Events
So, you’ve been training for months, given your absolute all in the race and now it’s time to sit back and enjoy cake, beer and pizza! Oh no, it just might not be :)
Yes, of course you’re going to enjoy a little indulgence but don’t forget that for the days following an endurance event your body is crying out for the molecules it needs to rebuild muscle, ease soreness and bring down excessive inflammatory markers.
Here are a few tips of things to incorporate in the days following an endurance event.
You probably know that carbs will help replenish muscle glycogen and that proteins from meats, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds will help to repair muscle damage and start to heal injured tissue. So this is not a post about where to get carbs.
It is a post with a view other tips! Don't overlook your veg. Over the next few days you want to be getting a good 8 portions of veg and fruit per day. Why? You produce a ton of free radicals when doing endurance sports and, in a nutshell, these can damage tissue and you need an army of antioxidants to quench them.
Among those veg, include your greens! Yes, I know you’ve heard this before but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with good level athletes and they just don’t have enough greens in their diet. This means at least one portion A DAY of leafy greens (broccoli, kale, cabbage, spinach, watercress etc). If cramping or fatigue is involved, there should be more! The key here is the magnesium in these veg. Magnesium is needed for muscle relaxation and energy production so if you’ve just done a big event, you really need to help your muscles relax and you’re probably pretty tired. Magnesium is an electrolyte and we excrete it when we sweat, we also use tons of it when we’re stressed and let’s be honest, races induce a rise in stress hormones even for the most laid-back amongst us. Training hard also increases stress hormones, but that’s another story…. I’ve seen improvements in magnesium status equate to much less DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
To boost your green veg intake, make smoothies with kale or spinach and sweeten with pineapple – another anti-inflammatory food due to its high bromelain content. Steam broccoli for your evening meal and leave enough to take in to have with whatever else lunch is at work. It’s great cold, drizzled in olive oil with toasted sesame seeds. Grab a bag of rocket on your way to work. Mash an avocado and have on toast for breakfast - whatever works for you, but think green! Make yourself a chocolate and banana milkshake. Key ingredients for me here are using raw cacao as it’s very high in antioxidants, especially magnesium. Bananas will give you potassium, more magnesium and B vits for energy production. I’d use a non-dairy milk as less inflammatory for some of us, but you choose. Using a high-speed blender, throw in a heaped dessertspoon of raw cacao powder, a good few chunks frozen banana (makes it super creamy when frozen), milk of choice, a tbsp of shelled hemp seeds (super rich in nutrients) and blend. If it’s really not sweet enough, add in a little honey or maple syrup.
Drink tart cherry juice. Studies on endurance athletes have shown that this helps to reduce inflammatory markers post exercise and encourages quicker recovery. Tart cherry juice is rich in anthocyanins, phytonutrients found also in blueberries and other dark berries. You can buy tart cherry juice in Real Foods in Edinburgh. It makes a great addition to your rehydration and can also help you sleep due to the increased production of melatonin. NB. Sweet cherries are also really rich in anthocyanins, just not quite as much as tart ones.
Include oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines) for the anti-inflammatory oils and protein for muscle synthesis. Avoid tuna if you can: it’s too high in mercury, which offsets the antioxidant selenium (which you need to quench those free radicals) If you’re veggie or fish-phobic, get your omega 3s from flax and hemp oils –drizzle on salads, in smoothies or have as seeds. Flaxseeds themselves must be ground to be able to obtain the oils.
Ginger and turmeric are quite closely related and can really help to bring down inflammatorymarkers. Ginger is able to switch off some of the genes involved in inflammation and is an excellent antioxidant – a clever little herb. Make ginger tea from fresh root and add it to stir fries or curries alongside turmeric. If you’re brave you could drink “golden milk” – a tsp or 2 of turmeric powder in a cup of hot milk with honey. I love it with almond or coconut milk– I was pleasantly surprised when I first had it. Warning: you may get a yellow moustache but it’ll be doing you good.
Most supermarkets sell pomegranates now –either fresh or the seeds in pots. Pomegranates are a rich source of ellagic acid, great for inflammation control. Throw them into salads with watercress and fresh turmeric for a superfood salad to quell your aches and pains! (Fresh turmeric can be bought in Earthy, Real Foods and Morrison in Edinburgh and is great finely sliced and put on salads. It looks like mini ginger root.)
Switch your normal spuds for sweet potatoes – much higher in vits A,C and E (yes, you guessed it – these are all antioxidants) and are lower on the glycemic index, meaning they don’t spike your blood sugars. A result of more controlled blood sugar is less insulin – a hormone that can encourage inflammation. For this very reason, I’m afraid cake, biscuits etc are not the best solution to inflammation Vitamin C in sweet pots and other colourful veg is also needed for collagen production to help those much used ligaments and tendons.
And lastly, when you do grab that piece of well-earned cake or piece of chocolate, have a small handful of walnuts or pumpkin seeds with it. Both are good sources of protein and good fats to prevent those blood sugar spikes. Walnuts also have loads of antioxidant vitamin E and pumpkin seeds are packed with magnesium.