The purpose of this article is to give you some practical and applicable tips to take away with you to aid your recovery after completing the Cork City Marathon (or any marathon you complete in the future). Everyone tends to focus on the lead up to the big day, the carb loading, new running wear, pre workout meal, energy gels, gummy bears, hydration etc. which they should do, and it is great to see people taking the necessary steps to enhance their performance. However, recovery does seem to be neglected.
Once the finish line has been crossed, its celebration time, job done, eat all around you, hit the booze and back into your normal routine after a day or two. A Marathon is exceptionally demanding on your physiological systems, no matter how fast or slow you complete it. If you want to reduce your recovery time, fatigue, risk of picking up any illness or injury then you will need to have some form of recovery protocol in place.
So enough of the lecturing, what do you need to do to help your body recover?
Depending on how hot the day is and how much you as an individual sweat, the amount of water you will need to take on post marathon is very individual. However, for a general guideline I would recommend consuming 500ml-1L of water within the first 30 minutes of crossing the finish line.
You should then drink according to your thirst. Don’t drink to the point of discomfort. Do ensure this is between 500ml-1L of water every hour for 5-6 hours. If you are someone who sweats a lot and it was a hot day you may be on the higher end of this recommendation, if you are someone who doesn’t sweat much and it was a cool day you may be on the lower end.
If you want to be very exact you could weigh yourself before the marathon and after, for every kg lost you should drink 2L of water (EG. Starting weight 70kg. Finishing weight 68.5kg. 1.5kg total weight loss = Drink approx. 3L of water over the following 5-6 hours).
When exercising your body will use carbohydrates as a primary fuel source, this will come from stored liver and muscle glycogen and carbohydrates you take in the form of jellies, gels etc. during the marathon. We want to begin the replenishment of these carbohydrate stores within the first 30 minutes of finishing the marathon.
When you sweat you will lose electrolytes through sweating. If you are a salty sweater this will effect you to a greater extent. Electrolytes are responsible for water balance and cell function therefore it is essential we replenish these essential minerals as soon as possible.
After the marathon you may not feel like eating at all or a lot of food. Therefore it would be a good idea to have easy to digest, simple carbohydrates available post marathon that should be consumed within 30 minutes after finishing. Aim for approx. 1g of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight.
Electrolytes should also be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing. These can be consumed through a number of sources such as Electrolyte drinks like Powerade and Gatorade, tablets or powder.
The marathon will cause a large amount of muscle damage and cellular damage. In order to begin the recovery and repair process a complete protein source will be needed to signal muscle protein synthesis and provide the raw materials of amino acids to be readily available for use.
20-40g of a complete protein should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing the marathon. Again you should have something easy to digest here. A steak or chicken breast may not be realistic if you have stomach upset. Something like a whey protein shake, protein bar or chocolate milk will be easier to digest.
Practical Take Away – Post Marathon Recovery Nutrition
Within 30 minutes of completing the marathon consume 500ml-1L of liquid, easy to digest carbohydrates, electrolytes and some protein.
Chocolate Milk would satisfy each of these criteria to make for an excellent post marathon recovery drink.
500ml of Mooju Chocolate Milk
- 23.5g Protein
- 52.5g Carbohydrates
- Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium)
Other Examples would be
- Cereal/Granola with high protein yogurt, raisins and a banana.
- Powerade/Gatorade and a Protein Bar/Shake
- Kinetica 100% Recov Shake and Kinetica Effervescent Electro-C tablets
- Your typical post run shake/snack, tweak to satisfy the criteria highlighted above specific to your needs.
Post Marathon Recovery Meal
Your post Marathon meal should be consumed after 2-3 hours. This meal should meet the following criteria:
- Consist of whole, nutrient dense foods (1 ingredient foods) to ensure a variety of essential minerals and vitamins.
- 20-40g of Protein. This will be approximately 1-2 palms of any meat or fish. 1 palm for females and 2 palms for males will be sufficient to optimally signal the recovery process.
- 1g of Carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight. 1 medium potato, 1 scooped handful of pasta, rice and quinoa, 2 pieces of fruit, or 2 slices of standard bread would be 1 servings of carbohydrates. Males should be aiming to consume 3 servings of carbohydrates and females should be aiming for 2 servings.
- A serving of mixed vegetables (think colour) to get a wide variety of minerals and vitamins.
- Added salt through table salt or a salty sauce or marinade for added sodium to replenish electrolytes lost.
This should be repeated every 3-5 hours the day of the marathon with the addition of some healthy fats (oils, nuts/seeds, butter, red meats, oily fish, avocado etc.)
Check out the following recipes for some culinary inspiration:
If you have taken up the challenge of the marathon to aid weight loss, now is not the time to stay in a calorie deficit. In order to recovery appropriately you should be eating at a minimum of maintenance calories. So keep this in mind for the days following on from the marathon.
The Part No-one Wants to Hear
Crossing the finish line and going straight to the nearest pub, pinting on for the day and eating some poor quality food will do absolutely no favours for your recovery. Simple as. You will prolong your recovery time, you will be at a higher risk of sickness and injury and you will feel worse for it. The bare minimum should be to follow the 30 minute post marathon protocol and do have a decent meal 2-3 hours after with plenty of liquids. The rest is your choice but do be aware of the effects; depending on your goals and reasoning there is no right or wrong. No matter what you choose to do, enjoy it.
You will be feeling fatigued and achey for a few days after the marathon. I would recommend you take 2-3 days of complete rest and use this time to focus on consuming a high nutrient dense diet with plenty of protein, carbs and a few well deserved treats. Ensure you are eating a sufficient amount of food to optimise your recovery.
After this time you should focus your training efforts on recovery rather than training to improve fitness and strength. Reduce your training volume drastically and gradually build it up over 2-3 weeks.
During this time invest in relaxation and recovery protocols which will help you mentally and physically recovery from the months or hard training in the lead up to the marathon.
Here are a few options that may be worth trying out:
- Spend some time foam rolling and stretching
- Take up a Yoga Class
- Get a good deep tissue massage or relaxing full body massage
- Head to your local leisure centre, do a light swim and spend some time in the sauna and steam room
- Check out Zero Gravity Float Cork
Once 2-3 weeks have passed your body should be back to its full strength, and ready to take on your next challenge.
Congratulations on your amazing achievement and I wish you a speedy recovery. If you have any specific questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
If you want to learn how to manage your own nutrition check out the nutrition coaching packages here.
Yours in health,