The final piece of our race chat is a SUPER important piece, POST RACE EATING!
Many times folks pay extra special attention to what they eat in the days before their race and race morning, they rock it out and cross the finish line, grab their things and head for home.
What? There was a tent with free food? Naw, I’ll just eat when I get home…after I shower…maybe after a nap too.
This is so NOT a good idea. There is a reason that big white tent is there with wonderful volunteers passing out food that was donated by awesome companies. It is for your HEALTH. Imagine driving your car and the gas light comes on (My husband will tell you that this happens often in my car) and you see a gas station ahead. Your thought should be, “Oh good. I’ll stop and refuel here”. Instead you think to yourself that you are pretty sure you can get to that Costco station on the other side of town for the discount gas. As you head along the street that little light is screaming that your car is running on fumes and that you run the risk of completely emptying the tank and having to coast to a stop on the shoulder.
This, folks, is your body post race! You are the car and you have run hard so the energy stores in your body are running on fumes. Your little dash light is on and the race directors have supplied you with FREE gas to refuel your tank. Unlike a car engine, if we don’t take care of ourselves we can actually damage ourselves beyond repair. Post race (and training of any kind) it is important to eat something within 30 minutes after you finish. This is considered the most important window for body refuel and repair.
So, what is in the tent and why?
Remember this is your quick hit in the 30 minutes after crossing the finish line.
Most post-race food is the same and with good reason. It is stuff your body needs. You will usually find the following;
· Bagel- you need this because it is a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy. We need it, period. Our body breaks down the carbs and either uses it right away as energy or it is stored in our muscles as glycogen to be used later when needed…hence the carb loading before a race. We can only store so much glycogen so once we use it (race day or hard training) then we need to replace it as soon as possible. If you have the option in the tent for a wheat based vs white bagel, go for the wheat as it will take a longer to digest and hold you a little longer.
· Banana- BOnana, BaNayNay…potassium rich food from Mother Nature. Nothing added, no coloring, no shelf life chemicals, just clean from the tree awesomeness! Potassium is a mineral that works with sodium (also a mineral) to balance the fluids and electrolyte levels in your body. And since steady fluid levels help to regulate your heartbeat and prevent muscles from cramping, potassium is an important post race need. Peel banana, peel peel banana. Peel the banana and, yum, take a bite. Just a little camp chant charging out of the memories there. J
· Water- Plain and simple, you need to rehydrate. You should have hydrated prior to the race, kept drinking during the race (thank your water stop volunteers each time!) and you need to drink up after crossing the finish line. Did you know that an adult human is comprised of up to 60% water? It is in our bone marrow, our skin, of body fluids, our brain, our cells, muscles….just about everything. Consider your body a grape…now, what happens to a grape left in the sun? Raisin? Yep, if you don’t keep yourself hydrated you will become a raisin, in a manner of speaking. Water is crucial to our survival and if we are dehydrated then our body, which is super smart, tells itself to cut back on systems and functions to try and hold onto as much fluid as it can. This can cause you to feel dizzy, tired, have muscle cramps, pee less, blood pressure increase, and even kidney shut down in the worst cases. So drink that H2O!
· Sports Drinks- You can avoid these. Say “thanks but no” to the nice volunteer, take your water and keep rolling. Let me start by saying that sports drinks, of any kind, are NOT made for kids playing their Saturday soccer game or equivalent. Marketing people are smart and they know how to hook you into thinking that this is a great post game drink. NO, NO, NO. Give those kids a bottle of water and some orange slices and call it a day! That is a whole other post that will be coming as we get a little closer to summer but here is a link to a Harvard article that can shed some light, Harvard article on Sports Drinks. Sports drinks are specially formulated to replace the salts and sugars that an adult body loses when working out at high intensity for an hour or more. As you can read in the article, Gatorade started off in the 1960’s as a mix of kitchen stuff and has morphed into a multimillion dollar machine that aims their marketing at everyone from elite athletes to weekend warriors. I encourage you to do some research for yourself about what is in them and make a decision that best fits your health goals. If you are going to drink a sports drink and least dump out ½ and mix it with water. We are pretty programmed to think that we need these pro sports player endorsed drinks after a workout but what did we do before the 1960’s? How did we refuel before sports drinks? Good ‘ole H2O.
Ok, good job. You had your 30 minute window refuel. Now you are home, you have showered (for your families’ sake) and maybe even had a nap for good measure. Now, you are starving! Time for the larger and more substantial meal. Many times folks want to celebrate the finish with a large juicy burger, fries and some beer. Just be prepared that your tummy might not be ready for something that big, heavy and greasy. While you are running your body diverts blood from the tummy (digestion) to your working muscles so it may take a ½ day or so for your belly to be ready for all that celebrating. To further help your body with recovery try to keep to:
· Lean proteins like chicken and turkey
· Unsaturated fats like avocado, almonds, natural peanut butter, salmon or olive oil
· Good complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, low fat yogurt, nuts/seed/legumes, whole grain breads & pastas, veggies & fruits.
I hope to see you all making your way through the big white tents this weekend and coming out the other side refueling and repairing your body. It will help you to recover faster and get you back out there training for your next big race!