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Best Way to Recover After a Long Run

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Question: “What is the best way to recover after a long run?”

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After completing a long run, your first priority is to REFUEL. Since your body’s muscles are depleted, it is important to get something in your body to begin the refueling process as soon as possible – the sooner the better but definitely within an hour. I approach Recovery Nutrition in stages, aim for 3 eating episodes over a four-hour period.

Stage 1: As soon as possible. Often this first eating episode involves a drink containing readily available-easy-to-digest carbohydrate with small amounts of protein (10-20g). The carbohydrate helps replenish depleted muscle stores and the protein helps initiate the muscle rebuilding process. Choices include sport drinks, smoothies, recovery drink mixes, or chocolate milk). Drinks serve the dual role of re-hydration and nutrient replenishment; however, don’t feel limited. Sport bars/gels, bagels, cereal, yogurt, crackers, and PB&J sandwiches are all examples of readily available carbohydrates, with some protein, that you should be consuming within 30 minutes of completing a long run. What you choose depends on where you finish your run, convenience, and how you feel. If your run is more than 90 minutes, you should also be consuming some carbohydrates during the run – this will hugely impact how you feel after the run and how quickly you recover.

Stage 2: Within 2 hours of completing your long run, aim to have a meal. This should be a balanced meal, replete with carbohydrate, protein, and small amounts of healthy fat.

Stage 3: Within 4 hours of completing your long run, another snack will round out the recovery process. A carton of yogurt, some fruit, a granola bar, or some toast with peanut butter will do the trick.

The 4-6 hour window after finishing a long run represents an ideal time for refueling. During this window your body is primed to accept carbohydrate back into depleted muscles. Waiting longer to begin the refueling process slows recovery dramatically and will delay your body’s ability to be ready for your next training run.

In addition to paying attention to your post-long-run nutrition, rest can be important. How much rest you will need varies between individuals. You will want to consider what percentage of your weekly mileage your long run represents, how long you have been running, and the amount of recovery your body has needed to feel recovered in the past. You do not necessarily need to take days off from running after a long run, but you must refuel and listen to your body for appropriate recovery and healthy training.

by Kristi Spence – Masters of Science, Registered Dietitian | Sport Dietitian | TOSH Sport Science | Elite Athlete: Half-Marathon/Marathon

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010 at 10:24 am and is filed under Expert Answers, Injuries and Pain, Nutrition, Training. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

5 responses to “Best Way to Recover After a Long Run”

  1. Greg strong says:

    Thank you for the info, knowledge is
    power. Although my thing is endurence
    walking, physically unable to run is the
    “recovery” processes the same between
    walking or running. ? Again thanks for
    the great info.

  2. Protein is a must have that most don’t get enough of when trying to pack on the muscle. props for a great article

  3. […] way to replenish after a marathon is to eat 3-4 times over the 4-6 hours post race. (See my post “Best Way to Recover After a Long Run.” The same rules apply here). Smaller, more frequent eating episodes replenish lost carbohydrate […]

  4. Sina says:

    Great article!

    I have always been curious what and when to eat after a race.

    This helped answer that question!

  5. Dave says:

    So I am going to be running one marathon a day across Canada this april. I am doing this to raise awareness for Traumatic Brain Injury as I am a survivor of one. So my question is what do I need to after each marathon to get myself set for the next day? Currently running 1/2 each day. With one rest day a week. Someones got to mow the lawn ;’)

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