by Emma Esslemont
You finally did it….. you are a finisher… you can’t get that shiny medal around your neck fast enough…. and yes you will wear it (along with your race bib) around for the rest of the day, just so everyone knows….. that you did it. (that is totally me)
It’s a pretty good feeling crossing the finish line of a fitness challenge you have spent weeks training for. It’s relief, exhaustion and a whole lot of satisfaction all bundled into one.
You catch your breath, find your feet, collect your thoughts. Now what?
Well for me the first thing on my mind always is FOOD. Post-race nutrition is really important when it comes to how well your body will bounce back. Not only do your muscles need nutrients to help with repair and recovery BUT you sure as hell deserve to reward yourself with a little bit of a feast.
First… WATER. Re-hydration is one of the keys to post race recovery. Consciously drink at least 1 full bottle of water in the first 5-10 minutes of finishing. Almost as important is replenishing electrolytes which are lost via sweat. Some people choose sports drinks, I personally find these way too sweet so I prefer to add a little sea salt to my water and sip on that.
Second…FOOD. Following an intense exercise effort your body needs two main things; carbohydrates and protein. Carbs will replenish your energy stores while protein helps with repairing damaged muscle.
Carbohydrates are best consumed in the 30 minutes post exercise as this is when your muscles are most receptive to replenishing glycogen stores. Protein is essential for muscle repair, the best sources here are meat, fish or eggs Vegetarian options include legumes and beans.
If you struggle with the idea of solid food after exercise which I know a lot of people do, opt for a protein shake. This can kick start your recovery until you feel ready to stomach a proper meal. Protein shakes with berries, banana and coconut water is packed with all the right things! A pea protein is the best option if it’s available.
What happens if you don’t refuel effectively?
Are you human?!? Seriously, for me the 8 hours after a hard event my brain is programmed to eat… but I always try to eat well. I’m not necessarily reaching for a greasy burger & bowl of chips instead my go to is generally breakfast as it’s normally my first meal for the day. Think eggs & bacon, lots of bacon. I get my carbohydrates from something like sweet potato chips or a grain free bread such as sprouted quinoa bread. For the remainder of the day I try to always have a carb & protein source in every meal. I also ALWAYS have my favourite little treat…Coconut Rough. Chocolate & coconut all mixed into bite size pieces of heaven (I’ll have a whole bag please).
If you are craving something in particular EAT IT. Your body is telling you something and you have well and truly earned it.
If you don’t give your body adequate nutrients after an intense bout of exercise you will take longer than usual to recover, you will feel tired, run down & the likelihood of you falling sick is slightly higher.
About the Author
Em is a sports physiotherapist & personal trainer who loves just about anything related to fitness & food. Her website ‘Your Sports Physio’ has articles dedicated to health and wellbeing as well as information about common sports injuries, their management and how they can be prevented! Check it out at www.yoursportsphysioblog.com. You can also follow her on instagram @emesslemont
thumbnail photo credit: sheknows.com