Post-race indulgences - RD approved!

Indulging on cheese curds the day after IMWI after placing 6th female amateur/3rd AG (this was an appetizer to my juicy "veggie" burger and salty sweet potato fries).

I was joined by Karel who also enjoyed indulging on a juicy burger with salty regular fries after qualifying for his first IM World Championship after his 3rd IM. 

Racing in endurance racing, at any level, requires extreme attention to every detail. Triathletes and long distance runners are known to be a bit driven, obsessive and competitive and more often than not, a bit food-obsessed.
Because achieving perfect race-week and race day nutrition may make the difference between having a dominating race day performance and struggling to make it to the finish line (or get out of the port-o-potty), triathletes who have a healthy relationship with food and the body intuitively understand the best foods for their body that will ultimately support health and race day goals.

But oh how circumstances change after an athlete crosses that finish line!
Pizza, burgers, wings, fries, beer, donuts and the occasional “healthy” orange slice to cleanse the palate.

It should be known that Karel and I are not strict with our diet and we choose to fuel on many healthy foods but also perhaps, some foods that may be taboo for some endurance athletes (ex. dairy, whole grains, bread).  But even though we have no off-limit food list, there is a strong emphasis on nutrient dense foods in our plant-strong diet (even though Karel is not a vegetarian like me, both of our diets are clearly plant-strong as our diet is primarily whole-food based).

So when it comes to indulging, there are so many reasons as to why we (that is all of us endurance athletes) should and deserve to indulge after a hard, long race and not feel guilty about it. 
I reserve the "need" to indulge for races only....and perhaps the occasional "it just feels right" post long workout occasion. 

Here are some reasons why we should all accept and enjoy the post-race indulging experience. 

The most obvious reason is because your body is compensating for the glycogen depletion, dehydration, brain fatigue and the 7,000+ calories that were burned during let's say, a 140.6 mile, arduous event. Bottom line, besides the copious amount of gels, sport drinks, cola and bananas that you consume during a long distance race, the body is famished.

If you have ever found yourself craving a salty, sweet and/or fatty meal within the 24 hours after crossing your endurance event finish line, you are not alone in this common ritual. Beyond the physiological reasons to refill your empty tank, the post-race food fest often unites exhausted athletes who need to de-stress. Although the body may be drained and covered in sweat, we all have foods that bring comfort to the soul. Post race, this is no exception. The Ironman competition, for example, is far from normal yet the post-race norm is to celebrate a great feat with some type of comforting indulgence.

It’s likely that you and hundreds of your fellow competitors may crave similar foods that were recently, not seen as performance-enhancing in your daily diet. An “off-limit” food list is likely the first thing that you want to tackle after you cross your long distance finish line.
Whether you indulge on sugary food to replace depleted glycogen stores, quench your thirst through electrolyte-rich fruits and beverages or salivate over calorically dense fatty options to comfort the body, do not feel bad about your post-race indulging.  Regardless if you finish an Ironman or marathon or celebrate the holidays with your family, indulging feels good and we all deserve it! 
(As for how it feels after you have over-indulged…well, you probably know how that goes)

Unlike sport nutrition, there is no clear science to post-race indulgences but from a physiologically stand-point, a depleted body is not always going to crave “healthy” foods. But we should also agree that foods that are often “off limit” are very easy to crave when they are eventually allowed or deserved. And just like hot dogs and cracker jacks are to baseball games, is very ritualistic and to no surprise, that many athletes share similar food-related cravings after racing for 3+ or 8+ hours. 

So that you do not feel alone in your post-race indulging, here is my recent IRONMAN.COM article so you can learn what you will find the pros chowing down on after they cross the Ironman World Championship finish line.   

(Thanks to all the pros who provided me with some yummy insight for my article!)