Two friends train for a marathon. They follow the same training plan and meet for long runs on Saturday mornings, keeping each other accountable to their goals. When the big day arrives one crosses the finish line with a smile on her face and arms raised in triumph. The other hobbles across, much later, ready to collapse in pain.
Our late finisher didn’t get injured. She trained hard but she neglected to pay attention to her fuel and her rest. Rest and recovery are THE difference makers not just in race training but also in fat loss, fitness and overall health. Giving your muscles time to recover and rebuild is key to a healthy and strong body that will carry you wherever you want to go. Getting plenty of quality sleep and including scheduled rest days gives the body time to recharge, repair and be ready for the next workout.
Finding the right calorie balance to meet your training level is just as important as finding the right running shoe. A balanced plate MUST be part of the training and recovery plan. Lean protein, smart carbs, and healthy fats provide fuel to replenish energy stores and rebuild muscle. Eating too little can leave you drained, while eating too much of the wrong things (like over carb-loading or surviving off fast food) can also leave you feeling sluggish.
Certain foods can also help speed up the recovery process, making sure you can give it your all at the next training session. Whether you’re training for your first marathon or training for life, these foods should be staples in any active person’s diet.
Vitamin D rich foods. A recent study in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that athletes had better recovery response if their vitamin D levels were higher. Our best source of vitamin D is sunshine, but adding mushrooms to your diet helps, too. Shiitakes are one of the better varieties with 110 IU per 100 g. You can boost their vitamin D content by exposing them to sunlight before eating.
Tart cherry juice and blueberries. After a workout, many of us like a good whey protein shake. Whey protein is a great recovery protein because it is fast digesting, getting to the muscles quickly. If you want to boost the power of your protein smoothie try adding tart cherry juice or blueberries. Tart cherry juice has anti-inflammatory compounds that act like a “natural ibuprofen.” A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition with runners found a decrease in post-run muscle soreness when consuming tart cherry juice the week prior to a strenuous workout. Blueberries have a similar effect by boosting the immune system and helping to clean up the free radicals created by the stress of your workout.
A good curry. Ginger and turmeric also have natural anti-inflammatory properties and are easy to include in your training diet every day. Turmeric is great in any egg dish and makes a delicious tea. Having a cube of crystallized ginger makes a nice after meal treat (and helps aids digestion). Try this Hawaiian Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Bananas for dinner after a long run.
Nothing can guarantee a perfect race. You CAN increase your odds by following a balanced training plan. When you find your training partner agree to support each other in all aspects of your training. Make sure you’re BOTH eating to support your bodies and getting plenty of sleep each night. Agree to schedule those rest days, too!