You already know how to fuel up on days you run. But what about on days off? Here’s how to adjust.
Don’t change too much.
While many think they need to tighten their grip on kilojoule intake come rest day, that’s not really the case. “It’s not necessary to restrict energy intake,” says Dr Stephanie Howe Violett, a running and nutrition coach. “That’s when most recovery and adaptation occurs, and proper nutrients are important to facilitate those processes.” Instead, tune into your hunger cues and opt for food quality over quantity.
Space out kilojoules.
Many people backload during the day, meaning they eat a light breakfast and lunch and then have a big dinner, says Tenforde. But that depletes your energy and makes your body more susceptible to breakdown. A steady supply is best, so if you must go light on your first two meals, balance it with nuts or fruit in between.
Fuel with micros.
Carbohydrates, protein, fibre – those are the macronutrients you need to fuel a strong recovery. But runners also need micronutrients like calcium, vitamin D and iron to replenish the body. Eating whole foods – lots of fruits, vegetables, and meat or beans – will help cover your bases. Violett says you should aim for about half of your plate to be full of vegetables, whole grains and fruit. Then add a serving of high-quality protein and top with fat (better if it’s unsaturated) to make sure you get essential fatty acids that also aid in recovery.
Rest days are a great time to prehydrate, as starting a run dehydrated is about as much fun as losing a toenail, says Violett. That doesn’t mean slam a bunch of water at once – just be mindful about your intake (and check your urine coluor to see if you’re on track).
Enjoy that beer.
Violett says it’s no big deal to indulge in an IPA, but it doesn’t exactly fuel your recovery. “Alcohol is a poor nutrient value, so it doesn’t do a lot for you,” she explains. Opting for a “recovery” beer after a tough workout? Eat a solid meal first. Going straight for the booze can hurt the body’s ability to restock glycogen stores, and your muscles may not recover as quickly.