I, myself, have never thought of running a marathon, although to be honest you would have more chance of having a dinner party with Lord Lucan, Elvis, and the entire crew of the Mari Celeste, than getting me to run that far. I am so in awe of the people who do train for these large scale physical events and like most things that require you to be physical, recovery is key and can be greatly improved by the right nutrition.
Protein, protein, protein
One of the single most important things to focus on in your diet when recovering from an enduring sporting event is adequate protein intake. Your muscles will take a battering and be broken down quite rapidly, so you require extra protein to help the muscles recover and rebuild stronger. Aim to add protein to each meal. This can be enjoyed in the form of meat, fish, eggs, cheese, tofu and beans.
However, wild fish and seafood contains unrivalled quantities of omega 3 fatty acids, which are necessary for managing inflammation. This is an area that regularly gets overlooked. The inflammation that can arise from intense exercise is immense – not just from full blown sporting events but also regular training exercises. Let’s face it – your body will have taken a pasting after 26 miles and you will most likely have inflammation throughout. But thankfully, there is a magic bullet in our diets that can combat inflammation. This bullet is known as omega 3.
Omega 3s supply the metabolic building blocks that the body uses to manufacture its own in built anti-inflammatory substances called prostaglandins. Oily fish such as salmon contains an abundance of omega 3s, which are metabolised to form types of prostaglandins (called series 1 and series 3 prostaglandins) that can powerfully push down inflammation.
Personally, I would make fish the star of each meal to maximise your omega 3 intake.
Following intense training or the massive physical impact of a high intensity event, replacing our glycogen stores is vital. Now bear with me whilst I explain the science behind this…
Glycogen is a stored form of glucose that allows us to perform intense bursts of activity. When we eat, the carbohydrate portion of the food, and even the protein to some extent, ends up as glucose, which our cells then use to create ATP – the energy source that they use. Because our need for glucose is so vital, our body has a mechanism to store a reserve supply that it can use when blood sugar levels get low – be this from a lack of sufficient food intake or from strenuous activity using up what is available. This reserve is called glycogen and is stored in the muscles and in the liver. When blood sugar dips low, we release the hormone glucagon that stimulates the release of glycogen as glucose. If glycogen stores dip too low, your ability to perform athletically will be drastically reduced.
The simple way to do this is to make sure that you eat a high quality complex carbohydrate source after exercising. After training, then be quite strict and choose foods such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes etc. This will top up your glycogen and support your health to. Following the intense physical demands of a big race or event, you can afford to be a bit less choosey and opt for anything available, even if it is simple sugars. These will replete you rapidly and not cause any issue in this scenario.
Exercise is great, but for me nutrition is greater. Be clever with food choices post Sunday’s marathon race and you can expect a speedy recovery.
Good luck to all of you taking part.