It might seem counterintuitive, but you really become stronger, faster and more resilient when your body is at rest. During your runs and workouts you are imposing different types of stress to your system. This isn’t just limited to your cardiovascular system, but includes your musculoskeletal and central nervous systems as well. In training, you are taking one step back in order to take two steps forward.
In order to continually progress and see the most benefit from a training program, it is imperative that you are fueling your body the right way. We break ourselves down during a run, so you need to have the right building blocks in place when your body starts to repair itself. Too many people don’t treat their post-workout nutrition regimen as part of a comprehensive recovery protocol, to their own detriment. This is when I typically start to see not just a plateau in performance, but also nutritional deficiencies that could have potentially catastrophic results.
After a tough workout, you’ll want to make sure that your body is getting enough fats, proteins and carbohydrates to restore and replenish itself. A standard post-run sports drink is a good idea, but it’s also helpful to include foods and drinks that contain more than just sugar and salt. Some of my go-to favorites after a long run are:
1) Chocolate milk. The ratios of carbs to fats to proteins is very well-balanced, and cold chocolate milk after a tough workout on a hot day is impossible to beat.
2) Granola bars. These bars typically contain some sort of fruit, nuts or a combination of the two which makes them a perfect and portable post-run munchie.
3) Smoothie. I like to blend some leafy greens into a shake with a few berries, banana slices and a scoop of Greek yogurt. Then I’ll throw in some chia or flax seed and top it off with almond milk and a protein powder. This not only gives me a perfect way to refuel, but a full-blown meal-replacement as well!
All too often I see people getting into the calorie counting game at the same time they are trying to make performance gains. It’s crucial to remember that it’s not just the work that makes you better, but it’s how you respond to the work as well. Without proper recovery methods like wholesome nutrition and adequate sleep, the mileage you log isn’t going to do much more than just run your body down.