nutrition · running

running and refueling lately

it’s been a while since I’ve actually written about my running, but I’ve been doing plenty of it with many ups and downs.

the ups being PRs in the 10K, half marathon and marathon in 2015, and the downs the slower races that followed (burnout? not sure) and a hot, painful but pretty darn memorable Boston marathon earlier this year. It took me a while to recover mentally and physically from that race, and even when I started my buildup for New York I didn’t feel quite “ready.” Long runs were a struggle and workouts took a lot of motivation to start, let alone complete.  Why am I doing this to myself again? At the end of the day, no one actually cares if I run the marathon (or any marathon) and I could totally not run this race and sleep in on weekends with what seemed like the rest of the world.

SUNRISE

(then I’d miss this, though)

but, the $200+ I had already forked over to nyrr for the race pushed me to keep going and not throw in the towel just yet. I had a couple decent workouts – hill repeats and mile repeats, I think – and started feeling good. Then the Olympics happened. As a former gymnast and now runner, I have always loved the Olympics. With the exception of the ’96 games and the Mag 7 (I can still probably do Dominique Moceanu’s floor routine, I watched the team finals so much on VHS), I can’t remember being so inspired after the last couple weeks of competition. So many fantastic performances that signify years of hard work, dedication and passion for something positive (boy could we use that right about now!). That’s what I love about being an athlete – there is no shortcut to get to where you want to be (well, no legal shortcut) – we have to work for what we want.  And the greatness we strive for doesn’t have to be an Olympic gold medal, it can be anything that at the end of the day, leaves us feeling accomplished.

and thus, my running mojo is back. Aside from regular Tuesday workouts, one thing I’ve been honing in on a bit more this training cycle is post-run nutrition. I’m great at making a post-run breakfast with all of the usual suspects – carbs, protein, antioxidants and healthy fats – but my timing needed some tweaking. With the core work and other strengthening exercises I do after my runs (try to do these on most days) and a shower (necessary), it could be more than 45 minutes before I can get to making my breakfast. Even though that time flies by, it usually exceeds the 30 minute window in which the muscles are most efficient at glycogen repletion. This is important not only for immediate recovery, but to prepare our body for the next run.

the research
an updated joint position statement from the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine on Nutrition and Athletic Performance was released earlier this year, and though this recommendation hasn’t really changed, further highlights the importance of carbohydrate consumption quickly after an endurance activity like running. The longer the carbohydrate ingestion is delayed outside of the recommended 30 minute window, the more glycogen synthesis slows and we may have less energy stores for our next workout. This doesn’t mean we need a meal’s worth of carbohdyrates within this window, but we need some (ballpark: 30-40 grams). Our muscles also need protein in the early recovery phase not only to aid muscle repair, but to further help support glycogen resynthesis. This is where that popular recommendation of consuming carbs and protein in that 3:1 (or sometimes 4:1) ratio comes from.

one interesting update to the position statement this year are some additional findings on protein – while we are all in agreement that it’s important to include protein in this early recovery meal, the recommended amount has varied in the past. Often I see athletes take in protein shakes or use protein powders with upwards of 30 grams of protein per serving, thinking that would be most beneficial to their muscles. But! Our body is not as efficient at absorbing any more than 25 or so grams of protein at one time. The latest research is pointing more towards the benefits of spreading out our protein intake over the course of the day (say every 3-4 hours) rather than consuming a large amount at one time, even if it’s after a workout. This goes for both endurance and strength training.

what I’ve been doing differently
this is not rocket science, but I’ve started making a smoothie before I leave for my runs so it’s ready in the fridge for slurping quickly upon my return. I have this before I do anything else (except maybe take my shoes off) and think it has made all the difference in how I feel immediately after the run and throughout the day in terms of energy levels and muscle soreness.

my favorite combo includes plenty of carbohydrates, some protein and antioxidants:

1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 frozen banana
1 cup kale
1 tsp cacao powder
1/4 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
water and/or almond milk

SMOOTHIE

try it!

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