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Crushing Your Recovery Game: Your Questions Answered!

Written by: Megan Andersen | Trail Nutrition Coach

Trail Nutrition Coach | Recovery

We all get that niggling feeling that recovery is no joke, especially in the world of ultra-running and every other sport out there. But guess what? Endurance athletes, like us, often find ourselves scratching our heads when it comes to nailing this recovery thing. It's not that we're oblivious to its importance; it's just that there's a whole bunch of stuff making it tricky to know exactly what to do when it comes to recovery and food!

Think about it—crazy long workouts, missing out on those much-needed calories, stress levels hitting the roof, and let's not forget the impact our muscles take. All these ingredients brew up a perfect storm that makes us endurance athletes struggle harder with recovery. So, what gives? Why do we struggle with bounce-back power?

But wait, there's good news too! We're diving headfirst into the world of recovery through a nutritional lens.

Ready to find out how you can rock that recovery after your run or race?

Should you slurp down a shake or munch on a meal?

Recovery Nutrition: Burning Questions, Straight-Up Answers:

What's the big deal and main goals with recovery nutrition anyway?
  • To replenish glycogen

  • Stop muscle breakdown

  • Promote muscle recovery and building

  • Rehydrate and replenish electrolytes

  • Replenish depleted nutrients

What is glycogen and why is glycogen replenishment so important?

Alright, let's break it down in simpler terms. Glycogen? It's like your body's carb vault, where glucose hangs out until it's needed. Picture this: your go-to energy source between meals and during your sweat sessions. Glucose, my friend, is your body's MVP fuel.

Now, why's topping up your glycogen stash such a big deal? If you're an ultra-runner or a stamina-loving athlete, you've probably heard the hype about refilling glycogen between workouts. Well, guess what? It's not just hype—it's science-backed wisdom. Your glycogen levels are like rocket fuel for your aerobic performance. When they dip low, so does your game. Bummer, right?

Reviving your glycogen isn't just about prepping for your next sweat session. It's like giving your body a VIP pass to some serious perks. Think cortisol levels taking a chill pill, your immune system getting a boost, and muscles staying strong instead of breaking down. Plus, ever heard of insulin resistance? Nip it in the bud with a glycogen refill.

Here's the secret sauce: You have to replenish that glycogen pronto after a workout to cash in on these sweet benefits. Even if you think you'll catch up later, don't miss out. Start your recovery game right after sweating it out.

Alright, enough with the basics—let's get into the food side!

What are macro-nutrient requirements for ultra runners?

If you were to poll athletes from any corner of the field about post-workout eats, you'd likely hear a thunderous "PROTEIN!" echoing through the halls. Picture this: pumped-up guys flexing their muscles and roaring like bears—classic testosterone display (No scientific source, just an observation, folks).

Now, let's zoom in on endurance athletes. If you quizzed them, you'd get nods to a mix of carbs and protein, though protein would still get the spotlight. But here's the twist: for endurance junkies like us, carbs are the real MVPs right after we've sweated it out.

Don't get me wrong, protein is cool too, but carbs rule the immediate recovery scene. It's not like protein's left in the dust—it's just that we need a carb party right now.

So, the million-dollar question: What's the magic macronutrient ratio for us ultra-runners for recovery? Studies wink at a sweet spot between 3:1 and 4:1 (that's carbs to protein, in case you're wondering). And here's why this ratio gets our stamp of approval.

First up, glycogen: fill 'er up, and fast. Chowing down on carbs within the first 30 minutes after sweating it out can boost glycogen by a whopping 50% compared to a two-hour carb delay. And it's not just about topping up your energy tank. This carb rush is like a superhero squad fighting off muscle breakdown, keeping cortisol in check, and waving off that pesky insulin resistance.

But hey, Protein's got game too. Teaming it up with carbs during recovery is like a double whammy for glycogen re-filling. Sure, it might not outshine carbs alone, but it's a solid player in the mix. And there's more: protein packs a punch in the muscle department. While carbs steal the spotlight, proteins's backstage, slowing muscle breakdown and nudging muscle rebuilding into action.

Alright, you're probably wondering how much is enough. Let's dive right into it.

How to calculate carbs and protein requirements:

How many grams of carbohydrates and protein should ultra-runners take in following a workout or ultra-marathon?

By combining protein with our carbohydrates, we increase glycogen re-synthesis. To give you an idea as to how to work your individual requirements out check out the below chart, using the recommended combinations of at least .8g/kg of carbohydrate with .2-.4g/kg of protein when rapid glycogen replenishment is desired.

Weight* | Carbohydrate (.8g/kg) | Protein (.3g/kg)

55 kg | 44g | 16.5g

65 kg | 52g | 19.5g

80 kg | 64g | 24g

95 kg | 76g | 28.5g

What kind of carbs should you grab after a run?

Imagine your muscles as sponges after a tough workout, ready to slurp up glucose and nutrients. Now, here's the deal: High-glycemic carbs are the superheroes for speedy glycogen revival. They'll dash straight to the finish line, refueling your tanks pronto. No need to fret about the "bad carb" label—when you're recovering, high-glycemic is a-okay. Plus, here's a golden rule: high-glycemic carbs shine in two situations—during exercise and right after it's done!

Examples of high-glycemic carbs: Bananas, potatoes, instant oats, rice cakes, sports drinks.

What protein should you be consuming?

Opt for protein sources with a full lineup of amino acids, also known as complete proteins. Best is always real food, but in many cases a pre packed protein shake would definitely hit the spot quickly. Bag a high-quality protein hit—whey, casein, or a plant-powered blend, whatever floats your recovery boat.

Examples of complete proteins: Chicken breasts, fish, eggs, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, soy products, whey protein, plant-based protein powders.

What about fats?

Let's talk fat—well, briefly…. When it comes to speedy endurance recovery, fat's not stealing the spotlight. A bit of fat won't mess things up, but for top-notch results, keep your focus on carbs and protein.

Electrolytes and fluids:

Touching on fluids … After sweating it out, a rule of thumb is to replace all the weight you shed in water. Easily done—weigh before and after. And hey, don't forget to hydrate (with electrolytes) during your runs and marathons. For recovery, your mission: restore electrolytes and rehydrate to near your starting weight, and do it pronto.

The biggie…. Your body is unique, learn to listen to your body, and do what works best for your recovery!


Trail Nutrition Coach, Megan Andersen

As a sports nutrition coach, my goal is to help each of my clients achieve their desired nutrition goals. Using food as a tool to support people in fueling their bodies for daily health, recovery, and optimal performance while still allowing them to enjoy the foods they love. Megan Andersen


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