An effective training schedule isn’t made up of runs alone. If you want to improve both your fitness and health it’s essential to think about what you’re including in your daily diet. A healthy meal plan will aid recovery after exercise by promoting good health, boosting immune function and helping you train consistently well.
Paying attention to what you eat after a training session or a big race is also vital for staving off muscle soreness and improving your performance.
Time it right
Your recovery period begins as soon as your training session ends. In this key window of up to an hour muscle cells are more permeable to glucose and all the right hormones and enzymes are active in order to reenergise your muscles. After a hard training session your body needs essential nutrients to kick-start the growth and repair process.
Look to combine protein and carbohydrate in the recovery window after your training session. Protein in particular helps the absorption of carbohydrate and aids amino-acid transport, protein synthesis and muscle-tissue repair – basically it will repair your muscles more quickly!
Make sure you include these health busting recovery foods regularly for top performance.
Not many runners are up for a plate of pasta immediately after a hard session, so opting for an easily digestible recovery drink like milk can be highly effective. A 600ml glass of semi-skimmed contains 20g protein and 30g of carbohydrates as well as electrolytes and fluids for hydration. This is an effective and inexpensive alternative to many of the commercial protein/carbohydrate recovery drinks available.
Try adding fruits, nuts and seeds to your milk for a super recovery shake. If you are lactose intolerant, opt for soya yoghurt, fruits and nut butter.
Salmon, mackerel and sardines are the kings of recovery nutrition. They are full of heart healthy omega 3 and contain anti-inflammatory compounds, which aid joint health, immune function and are extremely important for muscle recovery.
Mixed nuts and seeds
Quick and easy to carry with you for after a session, nuts and seeds should form a key part of runner’s diet. They are a great natural source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fibre. In particular they help to provide micronutrients such as copper, which is important for immune function. They also contain magnesium, which can help with muscle cramps.
It’s no surprise that having a diet packed with fruit and vegetables is one of the most critical ways you can support effective recovery. One easy thing to add to your diet each day is having cherry or blueberry juice which are both rich in antioxidants. Anti-oxidants are extremely important for clearing the muscles and helping to get rid of free radicals from the body. This will allow you to go into your next run feeling fresher.
Try adding a low-fat natural yoghurt to your diet which provides a good source of calcium and Vitamin D for bone health. Yoghurt also offers a good amount of protein per serving too. Certain types of yoghurts like kefir, a fermented yoghurt is high in nutrients and probiotics and is incredibly beneficial for digestion and gut health. Good gut health will allow your body to absorb and digest food effectively.
Wholegrain low glycemic grains in your diet will provide a steady supply of energy throughout the day. Quinoa is a different grain which is high in amino acids, has a good carbohydrate content and is something you could have as a pre-run meal instead of pasta, rice or bread. You can also try adding quinoa to salads.
Spice up your diet by adding more herbs and spices. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may help to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that you can suffer after a hard run. Try adding ginger to a stir-fry or even drink a root in hot water as tea.
Try these five recovery meal suggestions and watch your running soar.
- Eggs, salmon on toasted multigrain bagel.
- Wholemeal pita bread with banana and nut butter and a glass of milk.
- Alternative grains like buckwheat, teff, quinoa and amaranth with grilled meat or fish and steamed vegetables. These alternative grains are low in fat, high in micronutrients and a good source of carbohydrate and protein.
- Jacket potato with fish or meat and salad.
- Frittata and mixed salad.
Words: Emma Patel from RunningWithUs