You know, when you’re into running, keeping your body performing has a lot to do with what we are eating. Both before, during and after our runs. While most people that run, including me, take with us our insulated bottles, usually filled with some electrolytic energy booster drink along with energy gels, protein bars or just plain sugary candy, for that sustained or fast energy rush to keep our bodies going. But, those that really know what they’re doing know that too much sugar, while giving us a boost, can also cause us to crash, sometimes faster than we would like it to. So here are a few tips on how you can refuel your body after you’ve put it through its paces!
Putting Back What You’ve Expended!
A lot of people that run, can get away with just taking a couple of swallows of water after an intense workout, but people that make a habit of running long distances, or those that are training in multiple of ways for endurance events like marathons, triathlons and such know that when you’re putting your body through hours of expending energy, you need to replace those minerals you’ve lost from sweating, especially if the event happens on a hot sunny day! Yes, as I mentioned above, carrying electrolytes packed sports drinks with you along with energy bars, or gels are a great and easy to carry “go-to” nourishment boost that you can take with you in waist pack , or vest, as you cruise along your event path. I use them all the time myself while I’m out training or even on an event circuit. My go-to energy snacks are the GU Nutritional Energy Gels . But, those quick and go energy packed foods can also be packed with unwanted helpings of added sugar. Which is fine while you’re putting your body through its paces, but NOT so good when the event is finished and you’re looking for something to placate that empty feeling in your stomach.
The best way to replenish what your body is craving for, after a grueling training session or even the main event, is simply just pick up a fork and knife and start eating wholesome food!
You really can’t beat the fact that healthy foods contain just what your body is craving for after it’s spent a few hours expending energy in mass amounts. Natural foods, cooked and raw can contain all the electrolytes, vitamins and other nutrients that your body needs to replace those its used up.
Below are just a few examples of what you need that is only a grocery shopping list away:
Sodium: Everyone will tell you to limit the amount of your daily intake of sodium. And for non-athletic people, that is correct. But sodium is an essential building block to the nutrients that our bodies need to function properly.
Sodium, for an athletic person, is an electrolyte that we lose in the highest concentration when we work up a sweat. And I don’t know about you, but when I run, well, I sweat up a river!
Salt helps your body hold on to water. It keeps you hydrated for periods of time, so if you’re a runner, salt can be your friend. But, when the runs are over, there’s no need for you to devour a whole bag of pretzels!
If you do some research, which we have, and to make it easy for you to get a handle on switching our regular food for quick fix energy replacing products that are on the market. Drinking a 6oz. glass of chocolate milk and a bagel with a tablespoon of peanut butter spread on it can replace around 800 mg. of sodium lost in say two pounds of sweat dripping off of you during a hard-hour-long workout. And I would bet that you’re going to enjoy eating and drinking this a lot more than just a protein shake!
Keeping the above in mind, if you plan your meals before you undertake your exercise programs, you can consume a bowl of soup, (which usually contains larger amounts of sodium), before you start sweating to the oldies, as you train. Doing this, your body will be conditioned to retain more fluid and maintain hydration easier throughout your workout.
One of the tag-along minerals that are lost when you sweat is Chloride.
Chloride kind of piggy-backs itself with salt. Its more readily found in table salt and processed foods, like deli meats, condiments (mustard is a big one) canned soups, and my downfall, potato chips. Gosh, I love a salty chip!
Chloride is needed by your body to help maintain its fluid balance, blood volume, and blood pressure, along with your body’s fluid pH levels. And like sodium, it leaches out of your body with sweating. Instead of grabbing that bag of chips, instead put a sleeve of celery, romaine lettuce, a few vine ripe tomatoes and you can also throw in a can, or jar of olives. Again, these can easily be added to your after race or training regimen meal. And by sitting down and taking your time to eat and enjoy what you’re eating you’re going to provide your body with the nutrients it needs, the way it was meant to gain them.
Potassium: You need it, so why not eat what you enjoy eating to gain the benefit of this needed body catalyst? Chow down after that workout with a fresh orange, a half of a melon, half a cup of raisins or prunes. During an hour of intense workouts, you can lose between 200 and 600 mg. of potassium which plays a major in supporting cell and heart functions, along with helping to regulate your blood pressure. It also can help to prevent bone loss, which is important to women as we start to age! The well-known potassium go-to snack is, of course, the banana. One medium to large banana can provide you with between 450 – 600 mg of potassium. Other foods to keep on your radar that are rich in potassium are baked and sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, peas beans, and avocados.
Remember that old marketing commercial, Milk, it does the body good!??
Well, it does, since milk is calcium-rich and we need that calcium to help our bodies, especially our bones get the nutrients they need in order to maintain themselves throughout our lives. Milk delivers a mix of carbs, calcium, sodium, potassium along with high-quality protein, which will aid in muscle recovery. So, make sure you include milk, with your diet, regular of soy, with a good grain/bran cereal.
Magnesium: Aids muscle contraction, nerve functions, enzyme activation and bone development. It’s a great building block that your body needs to have an ample supply on hand. To replenish stores of this mineral after vigorous exercise, try eating a portion of green leafy vegetables, with a side of whole grains. These can include quinoa, brown rice, oats, corn, barley… to name just a few. Most of which are becoming more popular with the American diet. Naturally, when we say grains, we mean non-refined. The healthy, whole-grain foods include the whole kernel, along with the bran fibers which studies have shown can help protect your body from heart ailments, diabetes, colon cancer and can even help with slowing down Alzheimer’s disease.
Again, these types of dark, leafy greens, beans, lentils and whole grains contain their fair-share of magnesium which can also help you to fight off feeling fatigue. When your body runs low on magnesium, your body in turns demands more oxygen and energy while your exercising or training. So, without enough magnesium in your system, your body will tire more quickly. This is according to the U.S. Agricultural Research Service.
The bottom line is, while energy bars, electrolyte drinks, and snacks are great while you’re actively involved in physical activity. Once you’ve crossed that finish line, or you’ve reached the end of your training session. Then get yourself a balanced meal, chock full of the nutrients and minerals we spoke about above.
Then you can give yourself a pat on the back for a good day of training, along with a proper job of refueling your furnace so your body will be ready to give you everything its got!
Sounds like a Star-Track, Saying, Right?