Overcoming Post Marathon Legs, By The 4 D Trainer in Clapham
Congratulation to all of you who ran the London Marathon yesterday, it was a beautiful day for it and very challenging in those hot conditions.
I’m guessing there is a few fatigued and stiff legs around London today! Not to mention dehydrated bodies.
Lactic acid, which is attributed to post-workout muscle soreness, is an indicator of muscle damage. As a product of the breakdown of your body’s glycogen stores, it accumulates during short and intense periods of exercise. However, lactic acid can be used as an energy source for endurance athletes when their glycogen stores are depleted. You can find lactic acid in dairy, meat, and pickled vegetables.
To repair muscle damage, your body needs protein, which is made up of amino acids, the building blocks for your muscles. An adequate supply of protein will help your muscles recover from all the stress that’s placed on them, especially after doing weight-bearing exercise, such as weight-training and jogging.
The other thing your body needs to do after a workout is to replenish energy stores. Carbohydrates are responsible for providing your body with an ample supply of glycogen, which is your body’s primary fuel source. Muscles rely on carbohydrates for fuel, so you may want to re-think any low-carb diets, especially if you’re an avid exerciser. For people who perform a moderate amount of exercise, carbohydrates provide about 40-50% of the energy requirement. If you’re an endurance athlete, you should be getting 55-70% of your energy from carbs.
For marathon runners and triathlon in particular, it’s important to keep in mind that carbs provide more energy per unit of oxygen consumed than fats do. Because a lack of oxygen could cost you a race or an event, or make you feel overly fatigued after a workout, using carbohydrates as one of your primary sources of energy is a good nutritional bet.
So, why do you specifically need to eat carbohydrates after a workout? Hard exercise causes the glycogen stores in your body to be depleted, so your body won’t have enough energy to begin the recovery/muscle growth process unless you refuel those stores. A post-workout meal or snack that is high in carbohydrates provides this essential fuel and gives your muscles time to build. Without that carbohydrate boost, your body will convert fat, followed by protein from the muscle tissues, to usable energy, which means that your recovery will take even longer. The lesson here is that carbohydrates are good for you!
Some athletes (and many people) are afraid of fat, but cutting it out of your diet completely can actually hinder athletic performance. Fat helps provide fuel for the body. If your workouts typically last more than an hour, the body uses fats for energy after your glucose supply has been depleted. However, you should keep in mind that some fats are more beneficial to recovery than others. Saturated and trans fats can be detrimental to your overall health, but essential fatty acids (found in fish and certain types of oils) play a critical role in muscle recovery by helping to regulate oxygen, hormone restoration, cardiovascular health, and immune system integrity.
In addition to carbohydrates, protein, and fat, it’s also important to consume enough calories throughout the day. Without an adequate amount of calories, your body won’t have enough energy to spend on exercising.
When and what should you be eating?
How soon you eat after a workout definitely matters! No matter what time of the day you exercise, it’s important to eat a nutritious snack or meal that contains a combination of protein and carbohydrates. For fastest recovery, eat within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. If you can’t grab a snack right away, eat within two hours.
What should you be eating?
So, are there any specific foods that are the best for recovery? It really depends on your taste preferences! Here are some ideas for healthy protein carbohydrate, and fat, combinations to munch on after a workout:
- Peanut butter and banana on whole-grain bread
- Lean chicken with whole-wheat pasta
- Hummus and pita bread
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Tuna and wheat crackers
- Egg and cheese sandwich
- Greek yogurt with mixed berries