You had the race of your life or you went to the well in a killer workout. You just finished that last twenty miler before your upcoming marathon. You’re ready for all of the donuts and all of the burgers… I get it. There’s nothing like a massive stack of chocolate chip pancakes after the Sunday long run. And there’s no problem with indulging in some treats, as long as you replenish your body with the nutrients that it needs.
I’m not going to preach any specific diet or tell you what foods will make you faster. There’s no secret shake that’s going to take ten minutes off of your 10k PR. I do suggest that you choose foods that will work for you. Foods with high nutrient density and anti-inflammatory properties will help you to recover and improve.
Establish a baseline of feeling good. From my experience, we crave the foods that we consistently feed our bodies. Fill up on quality fuel and you’ll want to continue eating the foods that help you perform at your best. You will want to stay on top of your recovery nutrition once you know what you are capable of when you eat real, healthy food.
My favorite recovery foods are packed with micronutrients and contain the building blocks to help me tackle the next training session. I try to consume foods with anti-inflammatory properties. I’m continually stressing and breaking my body down in training. In order to reap the benefits of this work, I need to reduce inflammation and give my muscles the fuel to build themselves back up. Adaptation to stress requires quality rest and quality food.
TURMERIC (WITH BLACK PEPPER)
The curcumin in turmeric is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods on the planet. Try to consume turmeric with black pepper — this makes the turmeric more bioavailable (easier for your body to absorb). I like to put turmeric in a smoothie with tropical fruits. I’ll also sprinkle some turmeric on top of avocado toast with black pepper and sea salt. You can also head to your favorite Indian restaurant for a big bowl of curry!
Coconut contains medium-chain fatty acids(MCFAs). These healthy fats are especially great for athletes. MCFAs are easy for the body to break down and use as fuel. I’ll top my smoothies and oatmeal with coconut flakes. Due to it’s high smoke point, coconut is also great cooking oil. I like to scramble my eggs in coconut oil.
Tart cherries are known to decrease inflammation, and to help athletes recover. Tart cherry juice is also great for sleep — it contains melatonin. And honestly, the best form of recovery is sleep after all. Unsweetened tart cherries are challenging to find, so I like to buy tart cherry juice and drink some before bed. Check out Lauren Fleshman’s Cherry Pie Oatmeal.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
The antioxidant oleocanthol found in unrefined extra virgin olive oil is know to reduce inflammation in the body. Olive oil has a low smoke point, so try to avoid using it for frying or baking at high temperatures. Toss your green salads with olive oil and vinegar. My favorite snack is avocado toast drizzled with olive oil.
Fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are loaded with essential fatty acids, like omega-3s. I like to grill salmon in tin foil with a little olive oil, a few lemon slices, and some salt and pepper. This recipe form Run Fast Eat Slow is surprisingly delicious. Sardines are as tasty as tuna fish salad!
Antioxidant flavanoids give berries strong anti-inflammatory properties, and beautiful rich color! Stir a small handful of dried berries into your morning oatmeal or yogurt. Blend frozen berries into a post-workout smoothie. Even add fresh berries to a green salad.
Beets are packed with fiber, folate, manganese, potassium and magnesium. Beets are known to improve endurance, and the antioxidant batalain makes beets an anti-inflammatory food. I like to thinly slice my beets and roast them with coconut oil and sea salt to make a delicious beet chip. Or try blending some roasted beets in your next berry smoothie!
WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE
Whey protein isolate is one of the best sources of protein for athletes. This powder is easily digestible and quickly absorbed. Whey protein contains Luceine, the branched-chain amino acid that is needed for muscle repair. I try to have a smoothie with GU Recovery Drink (contains whey protein isolate) ready to go when I’m finished with my session. Try Magdalena Boulet’s Pumpkin Ginger Recovery Smoothie.
Leafy greens like kale and chard are packed with vitamin E, calcium, iron and other antioxidants. I like to make big earthy salads with chopped kale and lots of olive oil and vinegar. I’ll sauté some chard in coconut oil for an omelet as well.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pecans are a great source of omega-3s and inflammation reducing antioxidants. I eat nut butter 2-3 times each day. I also like to throw a handful of nuts into my oatmeal and salads. Nuts keep me satiated and give me the quality fats that my body craves. My Ultimate Grain Bowl is a great way to get in some extra nuts, olive oil, and other athlete friendly foods.
Adding or substituting a few a these foods can make a huge difference to your recovery and performance. Happy training and eat up!