While running a marathon requires perseverance and determination, the sense of achievement and renewed attitude towards lifestyle habits make it a well worthwhile challenge. This belief is no secret, as demonstrated by the 20,000 people who choose to take to the streets to run in the Dublin marathon. Although running the 26.2 mile course is impressive in itself, the true satisfaction also comes from committing to training and adopting a healthy dietary regime. However, this regime shouldn’t end at the finishing line as being prepared for how to recover and nutritionally look after yourself post-marathon is just as critical as warming-up at the beginning.
Post marathon nutrition
Researching the best way to take care of your health, diet and well-being following a marathon is important in order to prevent any damage and maintain all those months of hard work you put in. In terms of physical activity, it is important to let your body repair itself, which means no running for three days after the marathon. Then you can slowly build yourself back up to doing long distance running, such as going on a few five mile runs after a few weeks.
However, with regards to diet and nutrition, focus on eating plenty of fruit, protein and carbohydrates. The fruit will supply antioxidants to aid the immune system, the protein will help repair muscle damage and the carbohydrates will serve as fuel for the muscles. A smoothie is ideal since it is easily digestible and can be a good source of carbohydrate and protein. Consider adding banana, which is a source of carbohydrate, protein and potassium, adding some blueberries and strawberries for vitamin C and antioxidants, and finally some Greek yogurt, which contains twice as much protein as regular yogurt.
The importance of carbs
A high carbohydrate diet is particularly important in the 46 hours following the marathon, especially the first 10 hours of recovery. This is because the muscle cells have experienced severe glycogen depletion, which needs to be immediately addressed upon completing your marathon. Therefore, anything bread based, such as a sandwich is a good choice to have waiting for you at the end of the race.
Throughout training and following the marathon, post-workout meals should be set up in order to ensure energy boosts. Within half an hour of completing your marathon, you should eat a recovery snack that is high in carbohydrate and protein. The protein works to repair muscle tissue and that initial thirty minutes is the prime time to help your muscles recover. Additionally, protein also helps your muscles to absorb more glycogen. Aut Even Hospital suggests drinking a 300-400ml milk shake or fruit smoothie straight after the marathon, then a follow up meal around 2 hours after you’ve finished, such as a jacket potato with tuna, baked beans or low fat cheese.
Knowing how to look after your body and health post exercise is just as important as knowing how to warm up, effectively train and safely push yourself come the big event. Running a marathon is a rewarding achievement, requiring the right mindset and diet as well as stamina. Those good habits should not be left at the finishing line though as that attitude and newly formed habits towards your training and nutrition can become part of your healthy lifestyle.
Written by freelance writer Jane Houghton