How to help your body recover from a marathon - Nutrition

Jane McClenaghan shares her marathon recovery plan

Thousands of runners take part in The Belfast City Marathon from Stormont with a record number of entrants aiming to complete the 26.2-mile course.
Thousands of runners took part in the Belfast City Marathon on Sunday (Colm Lenaghan)

It’s almost a week since more than 19,000 people ran, walked or jogged the Belfast City marathon - well done to the lot of you.

There are months of planning and prep for a marathon – even if you just did a leg of the relay, I bet you were thinking about it for weeks: what to eat, how to pace your run, when to hydrate and refuel, what shoes and kit to wear.

These things are all important to help you get the most out of your marathon event, but if you are hitting the ready meals and junk food hard this week, then your recovery may not be quite as optimal as it could be.

If you are still feeling the after-effects, then put the kettle on, put your feet up and have a read of these ideas to help aid your recovery:

  • Pack in anti-inflammatory foods to help reduce pain and promote healing. This is especially important if you picked up an injury, or are still feeling achy and sore.
  • Brightly coloured fruits like berries, watermelon, cherries, grapes.
  • All vegetables, but especially the dark green leafy ones like broccoli, watercress, rocket and spinach.
  • Green tea.
  • Turmeric and ginger – great as teas, but even better in curries.
  • Oily fish like mackerel and salmon.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Nuts and seeds – especially flaxseed, chia and walnuts.
  • Oil your joints with healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds and oily fish.
  • Protein is essential for cell renewal and tissue repair and recovery. Different athletes will have different protein requirements, depending on your age, gender and other factors, but a rough guide is to make sure you have a decent source of protein with every meal and aim for a portion size that is at least the size of your palm. You might like to use a protein powder, but get as much variety in your protein sources as you can – mix up different nuts, seeds, beans in salads and top with some cottage cheese or feta. Go Greek for your yoghurts (more protein than most regular yoghurt), eat some meat, fish or chicken a few times a week or if you are vegetarian then opt for more pulses, tofu or tempeh at main meals.
  • Carbohydrates will help keep your glycogen energy stores topped up, getting you ready for your next Parkrun or mini marathon this weekend. Choose wholegrain versions of starchy foods, root veg like sweet potatoes and some chocolate – just for good measure.
  • You will have lost a lot of salt and that’s where your electrolyte drinks will have come in handy after the race last weekend, but you can help keep electrolytes balanced in your body by adding a little sea salt to meals. Coconut water, watermelon and milk are all lovely ways to help keep your electrolytes in check and one of these could be a decent choice after your run this weekend too.
  • Keep well hydrated. Keep your water levels topped up. Adding a little cordial to water can help with hydration.
  • All that running can leave iron levels on the low side. Top your iron up with some red meat, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts and dried fruit.
  • It can help to add a couple of carefully chosen nutritional supplements into your recovery plan too. Vitamin C and a good quality multivitamin designed for sports recovery is a good place to start.

Enjoy the downtime, take it easy and get back out there when you are ready and able.