XTERRA athlete, coach, and nutritionist Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun shares her expert tips on how to refuel after running long.
By Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun
The long run is one of the key off-season workouts. Not only is it a great way to build a base, but it’s also a great way to catch up with friends or spend some quiet time alone in nature. Traditionally defined as one and a half times to twice as long as your regular runs, the long run is all keeping it about slow and steady, making it the quintessential Sunday morning workout.
One of the challenges of the long run, however, is what to eat before, during, and after.
“Even though the intensity is low, the long run always affects you more than you think,” said Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun. “Running uphill and downhill on the trail can make the muscles sore and be exhausting.”
However, the long run has key benefits in training, including building endurance and leg strength. The secret is to recover well so that you can bounce back and continue training whether it’s in the pool, on the bike, or on another base-building run. The key to recovering faster on a long run includes eating foods that:
- Remove acidity and toxins
- Rebuild glycogen stores
- Restore intestinal flora
The first thing to do during and after a long run is to drink any isotonic drink with electrolytes. These can be lightly sweetened. An isotonic solution – at its most brutish – refers to a drink with the same concentration as human blood. Theoretically, these drinks deliver energy and clear the gut promptly. In practical terms, they contain about six to eight percent carbohydrates.
After the run, your digestive system may be off and you might not be hungry. During your run, blood is diverted from your stomach to your muscles, so it’s wise to allow some time before eating solid food.
In the meantime, you can restore glycogen stores with a drink that contains half mineral or still water and half fruit juice like grape or apple. It’s best to stay away from acidic juices like orange or grapefruit as that can be tough on the stomach. If you are hungry, fruits like watermelon, melon, grapes, pears, and peaches contain an optimal amount of sugar and minerals.
After a short time, your digestive system will kick into gear. You will know because you will be very hungry! For your next meal, plan for a combination of veggies, protein, carbohydrates, and good fats.
This includes salads with spinach, and arugula topped with protein such as eggs, fish, peas, and tofu. Carbs like rice, potatoes, corn, lentils, buckwheat, and oats are best because they are gluten-free and easiest on the gut. Feel free to add zucchini tomatoes, bananas, mango, kiwi, and any fruit or vegetable as they are high in water. And as always, add plenty of chia seeds, nuts, and avocados for the good fat that will fill you up and make you happy.
For an added bonus, antioxidants such as green tea, goji berries, acai berries, and cacao (that includes chocolate!!!) can also be included.
What to Make
We get it. Sometimes, after a long run, you are so tired that you just want someone to tell you what to do, and that includes what to eat. Below are some of Borrelly’s favorites. These include:
- Smoothie with kiwi, mango, spinach, almond butter, and cacao
- Bowl with oat flakes, soy or nut milk, kiwi and bananas with goji berries and chia seeds
- Fish tacos with gluten-free tortillas, rice, arugula, tomatoes, avocado, and fish
- Dessert of chocolate mousse made with eggs and chocolate combined with a mug of green tea
Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun is an XTERRA athlete, pharmacist, and has studied sports nutrition and natural medicine. She works alongside her husband, a former professional XTERRA athlete and 2005 XTERRA World Champ, Nico Lebrun, at Organicoach, where they create optimized nutrition plans for athletes of all levels. In 2018, Alexandra finished second in the 40-44 age group at the XTERRA World Championship.