Refueling After A Race – Glass Slipper Challenge

Carb loading is a popular past time in the days leading up to a race.  The idea is to make sure the body’s glycogen stores are fully loaded up so that you go to the starting line with a full gas tank.

The prevailing advice is that before an athletic event lasting more than 1.5 hours you will improve your performance by eating extra carbohydrates during the day or so before the event.  I’ve had good results with just focusing on eating a few extra carbs with my meals the day before a race.  Because I do a lot of racing at Disney, those carbs may or may not come in the form of Cupcakes.

One related thing I’ve had some difficulty with is refueling after a race or long run.  Because I’m trying to lose weight and eat clean I give myself a pass to eat a more simple carbs before a long run or race but can’t seem to allow myself to do the same afterwards.  I think I’m afraid that if I don’t get right back on track then I’ll go totally off track for weeks.

The problem is that refueling after a race is really important and not doing it properly has caused several problems for me.  Not properly refueling after the Tink 10k and before the Tink Half contributed to a pretty rough race for me.  And while I had a great 12 mile training run last weekend and I fueled before the race well, I did a terrible job of refueling and paid for it the next couple of days.

I was so focused on keeping my eating clean that I just didn’t eat enough in the meals after my long run Sunday and I didn’t include enough carbs to let my body really recover.  I ended up feeling very unwell for the next two days until I broke down and ate a bunch of junk food on Tuesday.  I did end up feeling fine, but unfortunately I ended up way overshooting the mark and have over eaten since then.  Sigh.  It’s a fine balance and I don’t have it quite right just yet.

The science of refueling says that you should get a protein and carb mixed snack within 30-60 minutes of finishing a race/long run to help your body switch from breakdown mode to recovery mode.   Chocolate milk, peanut-butter toast, or a bagel with cream cheese are all good recovery foods.  Rehydrating is also very important to help with recovery.  Then, your next regular meal should be designed with recovery in mind with a mix of protein, fats and plenty of carbs.  A final carb/protein snack a few hours later will top you off and leave you ready for your next race or workout.

With the new race challenge series that are being offered by runDisney, refueling is even more important.  My plan for the Glass Slipper Challenge is to carb-load (eat a couple of cupcakes and some rice/pasta based meals) before the 10k and to make sure to focus on carbs and protein again after the 10k and before the Half.  I’m really hoping that this focus on fueling for recovery will help me with my energy levels for the Half.

The biggest tips for the carb-loading and recovery period are:

  1. Don’t over-do it, if you stuff yourself you’ll regret it.
  2. Avoid foods that may cause you stomach distress:
    • Rich foods
    • Spicy foods
    • Fatty foods
    • Iffy foods – things that are more likely to give you food poisoning in your experience
  3. Stick with what you know, this isn’t the time to try new things

Do you struggle with the right mix of refueling after a race or long run?  What works for you?


Refueling After A Race – Glass Slipper Challenge — 16 Comments

  1. Well I just have to thank you for the permission you just gave me! So basically:
    1.Before race: CUPCAKES!
    2. After race: CUPCAKES and ALCOHOL!

    Check! I got this! LOL

  2. I often find I am starving during the race, but have little to no interest in eating after the race, which often leads to issues in the park with needing to eat now or I may pass out. I find chocolate milk works awesome for those instances and is readily available.
    And yes! #EatAllTheCupcakes!!

    • I’m the same way. I get the runner’s box and nothing looks good at all, not even Powerade. I used to be good about putting Chocolate Almond Milk in my race bag but have slacked on that. Guess I know what I need to do next weekend!

  3. I actually spend the entire week before a race carbo-loading instead of going overboard a day or two before the race. Obviously, as a vegetarian, I eat a lot of carbs (hello, veggies!) But during the week before a race, I’ll focus on popcorn, pasta, and pretzels. I try not to eat too differently, but pasta is the biggest change in my diet before a race! I don’t really have a problem eating enough after a race or a long run, I sometimes overdo it. Good luck with your taper/carb loading this week and hopefully I will see you this weekend!!!

  4. I love chocolate milk after a long run. I usually eat a slice of toast with peanut butter with it. After that it is hard for me to eat. Once I didn’t eat until dinner after a run. It was bad.

    • Toast with peanut butter and chocolate milk is one of my favorite snack combos! I think because I’m not usually hungry after a run and I’m trying to lose weight, I have a hard time forcing myself to refuel.

  5. I think I do alright, though I’ve only ever run 5 miles as my longest run ever. I LOVE chocolate milk as a post-race snack. Straight out of the fridge, shake it up and you’re good to go – nice and cold! It takes me a little longer to eat if I’m going to have real food, so drinking it works perfectly for me.

    • Portion control on the chocolate almond milk is a problem for me because it’s soooo delicious! I did have an individual serving box after my run today and it hit the spot! I am going to try to make sure to re-introduce it as a post run treat. Yum!

  6. I haven’t done this many back to back races before so I’m not really sure what my eating plan would be. I’m generally not hungry after a race ( probably because there is too much excitement going on), but we will see! I will definitely be downing a few cupcakes at some point though, that’s for sure!

  7. Chocolate almond milk is my go-to snack after a run, too. I read somewhere it has the ideal ratio of protein and carbs, plus it’s really tasty. I’m running my first 10K in a few weeks and while I probably won’t really need to carb load, an extra cupcake couldn’t hurt. 😉