It’s no secret now that nutrition is an essential player in running performance and recovery, thank goodness. Food is not only delicious, but it’s fuel and one of the shiniest tools in the recovery toolbox (can’t forget rest, sleep and easy runs too though!). As my own training starts to ramp up – I’m aiming for the Philly Marathon this fall – I’m geeking out even more than usual on the latest and greatest research on training, racing and recovery nutrition to help me get through this training cycle feeling strong and ready to race. Here are a couple things that are going to be frequenting my grocery cart this summer/fall.
Whole milk yogurt
This is not a new one for me – I’ve been on team full fat dairy for a while. But, it’s going to be continuously present in my diet during training for a few different reasons beyond the fact that it’s creamy and delicious and I really like it. When my mileage increases during marathon training, my menstrual cycle tends to get a little nutty. I can skip a cycle completely or go longer time periods between cycles if I’m not careful, which is NO BUENO. This is not a sign that training is going well, it’s a sign that the body is either undernourished and/or going through too much stress. Every body reacts to training differently, and I’ve learned over time that mine has a bit of a lower threshold. This means being on top of my nutrition, eating enough to support my training and taking regular rest days are a priority. Whole milk yogurt not only has a good amount of protein to help promote muscle recovery after runs, but is also energy dense and a good source of fat. I wrote about this previously, but research has found regular consumption of full fat dairy products can help support a regular menstrual cycle and may promote fertility. And I haven’t even gotten into the probiotics! So many benefits, so little time.
whole milk greek yogurt, museli, berries, almond butter
Tart cherry juice
To be honest, tart cherry juice isn’t something I’ve tried before during training or in general, really. It’s expensive! And I’d rather eat cherries. But, fresh cherry season is short and the research on juice is compelling enough for me to want to give it a whirl. Plus, drinking a concentrated juice seems a bit easier than eating 45-50 cherries every day (my intestines are shuddering at the thought). I found a great review article summarizing recent research, and findings are fairly consistent that drinking 8-12 ounces of tart cherry juice twice per day can help reduce pre- and post- race muscle soreness and reduce inflammatory markers in the body. One study of half marathoners found intake of the juice twice a day in the seven days before the race and two days after the race not only helped reduce soreness, but may even boost performance. Similar results were found in a study on cyclists. Like so many topics, more research is always needed before any general recommendations are made, but I think it’s worth a try. I’ll probably start with having 8 ounces, twice per day 4-5 days before a key long run or workout, and then continue for two days afterwards to see how I feel and maybe repeat that a couple of times. If all is well, it might become part of my race week plan.
And obviously, other pizza-making essentials like cheese, pesto or tomato sauce and veggies. Pizza is probably my favorite pre-race or run fuel and one of my favorite recovery meals, and I love making my own with some good dough and lots of toppings. I’ve said this many times before, but carbohydrates are friends not foes in general, and especially when you’re an endurance athlete. There is a time and a place for cauliflower pizza, and marathon training isn’t really one of them (for the most part!). Pizza is a great way to get in some quality carbs via the dough, some protein with the cheese and if you like to add meat or sausage, and antioxidants with a variety of veggie toppings. I like making mine at home because of the unlimited freedom and flexibility on toppings, but also because a super greasy NYC pizza may not sit as well the night before a race or big training run. I also find pizza to be consistently great at satisfying crazy marathon-training hunger, which sometimes is not an easy thing to do. Ok, I’m hungry for pizza now, so I’ll leave you with the recipe for my favorite combo of all time.
the below pizza, plus red wine for good measure
Veggie Ricotta Pesto Pizza (serves 1)
- One fist-sized portion of thawed, room temperature pre-made pizza dough (whatever you like – whole grain, plain, etc.)
- ¼ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1-2 tbsp basil pesto
- 1 cup chopped kale or baby spinach
- 3-5 medium/large shitake mushrooms, de-stemmed
- 1 plum tomato, sliced
- 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- Olive oil cooking spray
Set pizza dough out on counter 1-2 hours before cooking. When ready to start prep, heat oven to 425° F and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Begin kneading pizza dough with hands or use a rolling pin (I find it easier to do this by hand) and form a large circle. Place on cookie sheet. Spread pesto evenly onto dough, followed by ricotta. The ricotta can be added in little dollops throughout the dough rather than spread evenly. The add spinach or kale, followed by sliced tomato and mushrooms. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is slightly browned. Let sit for a few minutes after removing from oven, slice and enjoy!