How To Eat Right For Race Recovery

By Julia Reedy, MNSP, August 31, 2017


It's that time of year. The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and the temperatures are steadily dropping. Before you know it, fall will be here and the North American triathlon season will be coming to an end. Whether you've already accomplished your main race, or preparing for the end of season, recovery time is just around the corner! 

This past weekend, our very own, Ross and Ashley competed and crushed their goals of racing Ironman® Maine 70.3 (more on that to come). We selfishly want them back to the top of their game as quickly as possible, we've put together a few ways to help them recover post-race. So here you go, colleagues: a few quick, strain-free triathlon recovery nutrition tips...

Biomarkers associated with physical overload

Our bodies get put through the ringer during events as strenuous as a long course triathlon. You could probably deduce that yourself just getting out of bed the day after. But, did you know the effects go beyond simple soreness? Here are the biomarkers that can help you quantify race day damage.

Creatine Kinase (CK) is only produced in the muscles, so its presence in the bloodstream indicates muscle damage. It’s normal for intense bouts of exercise to cause spikes in CK, but it’s important that they return to baseline shortly after.

High blood levels of liver enzymes, AST and ALT, generally signal systemic inflammation. They also spike after intense exercise.

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When you exercise, your body assumes the physiological stress is due to an invader. As a result, your white blood cell (WBC) count increases accordingly. Therefore, when you sustain physical activity as trying as a triathlon, this response is even stronger. But, an elevated WBC count can lead to an overactive immune system – something your body can’t sustain.

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Testosterone acts as your fuel tank during your race and throughout the intense training leading up to it; it slowly ticks towards "E" as you rack up the miles. Rest days are therefore essential for restoring T levels.

Intense and/or constant exercise can also cause a rise in cortisol levels. As a hormone, cortisol is capable of causing physiological stress all over the body, so we want to keep it at bay.

Looking to PR your recovery? We can help.

Potential post-race foods

You didn't think we'd call attention to potential problems without offering some solutions, did you?

Here are the nutrients and foods that make up a stellar post-race diet:

Since CK leaks into the bloodstream from damaged blood vessels, it makes sense that proper muscle repair dams the drip and prevents further leakage. Protein – the building block of muscles – is therefore your best friend. Great sources include: fish, like grouper and snapper, pork loin and leg, and dark-meat chicken.

As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E can help repair the liver and stop the leakage of enzymes AST and ALT. Good sources of it include nuts, like peanuts and almonds, sunflower seed products, and wheat germ.

When it comes to recovery, healthy fats are an absolute must! They keep cells pliable and resilient against any threat of damage. Fats, like omega-3s and their counterpart omega-6s, can even help bring your liver enzymes, WBC, and cortisol levels back to baseline. Incorporate fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel, seeds, like sesame and pumpkin, and soy products into your daily post-race regimen.

Finally, magnesium is a mineral that is often overlooked, but its importance in recovery cannot be overstated. Magnesium has the power to both increase low T levels and decrease high cortisol – two birds with one stone. For great sources of it, look to incorporate grains like amaranth, oats, wheat germ, and quinoa.

And if you're left wondering whether these recommendations are right for you, there's only one way to truly find out...

Discover your biomarker levels!

Learn how your biomarkers affect your body in this FREE e-Book download!

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