How to Handle the Post-Race Binge
Let’s face it: training for a half marathon, full marathon, or basically any endurance sport or race can be really intense. And this is especially true when we are training with a particular race day goal in mind. For the weeks and months leading up to race day, we focus diligently on our training and nutrition. Some of us might choose to work with a running coach and/or sports dietitian to come up with an exact plan for action each day and week. And because most of us runners are Type-A personalities, goal-oriented, and results driven individuals, we tend to throw ourselves entirely into sticking verbatim to the plan. That means a lot of miles getting logged, a lot of post-run recoveries and stretching, getting downright over-protective of our precious sleep time, and making sure we are fueling our runs and our bodies with mostly all nutrient dense food (often choosing to avoid excessive refined sugars, starches, and alcohol).
By the time race day rolls around, our bodies are more-than well-oiled machines, ready to conquer the race route. And once we cross the finish line and wrap our heads around the fact that we DON’T have to get up tomorrow to run, train, etc., the post-race celebrations begin. Oftentimes, that means indulging in those sweets and treats we forbid ourselves from eating for so many months, as well as plenty of time spent horizontal with our feet up on the couch, and maybe even a glass or two of a refreshing white or comforting red. But what happens when we go overboard? What should runners do when they indulged after a race may be a little too much, and want to get back on track? After all, we’re RUNNERS for crying out loud. Even when we swear to ourselves and others ‘never again’ during those grueling training days, we pretty much sign ourselves up for another marathon the minute we cross the finish line of our last one! Here are some tips for getting you back on track and running strong again as you prepare for your next race.
Breathe, Be Grateful, Get Excited
Under no circumstances WHATSOEVER should you start wallowing in guilt and self-pity if you eat too much after a race. (In fact, in no way should you ever feel guilty or bad for eating food EVER, no matter the amount and no matter the amount of exercise you have or have not done, but I digress…) If this is something that has given you anxiety in the past, take a deep breath or two and remember that your body needed it! It was asking you to fill it back up with energy and your brain was probably asking you to give it some comfort and “soul” food too. Be grateful to your body, for what it can do. Our bodies are amazing things. Your body just helped you run a race, and when we feed it food, it is smart and knows what to do with it. It will adapt and work really hard to maintain its set-point and the weight that it’s most comfortable with and functions best at. That means that, if you eat “more” calories than you might otherwise, your metabolism will probably just speed up to accommodate. Then get excited! You just finished a great race! And you have so much to celebrate!! You have wonderful friends and family who love you, a great group of supporters who are right there celebrating (and likely indulging) with you, and a bright future of more running and more races (or more sleep and more rest, if that’s what excites you!)
Your body needs a lot of water, always. Water will help boost your metabolism and get your digestive tract functioning normally if it has been a bit thrown off from the race and the food. It will also help absorb salt from saltier foods you may have consumed.
Sleep and Rest
Sometimes when we are overly tired, our bodies start signaling hunger cues for us to eat more and get more energy, to help keep us awake. Getting restful sleep will help get our bodies back into a regular routine and provide our brains and systems with the energy they need to function properly. Sleep is excellent for digestion as well.
Don’t Over-Exercise and Under-Eat
Most folks feel the need to “make up for being bad” around food by over-exercising and fasting the next day. This is a terrible idea for SO many reasons. First of all, you just gave your all in a race. Your body has not had nearly enough time to recover to get it back to where it should be to start running and exercising normally again.
Secondly, this will just lead to more hunger… and the chance of another binge-like episode happening again. (Not to mention, not eating makes your metabolism slows down, and if it is used to not getting enough food after it gets more-than-normal amounts of food, it will start thinking it needs to store more of that food as fat and usable energy, since it gets used to not being fed regularly and needing to have energy stores.)
Break the cycle! Stick it to the man (diet industry) and instead say, ‘Yes, I WILL eat three well-balanced meals and snacks if I need them today no matter WHAT I ate yesterday because I care about nourishing myself and making my body feel good.”
Aiming to continue getting in proper amounts of all three macronutrients ensures that your body isn’t missing out too much on one, which tends to it going bananas on you and craving all sorts of stuff later (even if that means a few days later). NOTHING will happen to you if you overeat one day and then resume regular eating the next.
Trust your body!!
- So, You Ate Too Much.. What do you do now?, Forbes BLog, Nov 26, 2015 ,