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What a marathoner (shouldn't) eat

Posted Jan 19 2012 12:00am
I do this every time, and it drives me crazy.  Marathons or other big races that you are prepared for but not conditioned to run every week have a short term impact on your mind and your metabolism.  I average burning about 150 calories per mile that I run.  It can be exactly calculated using a formula that includes your speed, body weight, and duration (the last mile burns more calories than the first mile), but I don't know the exact specifics for the formula.  The treadmill does it for me.  So running 26.2 miles will burn off about 3900 calories on that day, but the metabolic effects stay strong for about a week afterwards.  This post is about what that does to my appetite.

Every time I eat through the roof.  I love to eat, and I love the way eating healthy foods makes me feel.  But for the week after a big race like ironman or a marathon, I always relax the rules and let that metabolism ride me through it.  Here's what I ate after the Charleston Marathon on Saturday
Saturday:  ran the race in the morning.  It was very cold and windy, temps in the mid 30's most of the time and I was out there running in shorts. We brought some chicken and dumplings from home, Kelley's recipe, which is not really health food but not as bad for you as most recipes are.  I had two big plates, it was warm and wonderful.  Then we took Michael and Summer out to a local seafood restaurant for a huge plate of fried fish, shrimp, french fries, and hush puppies.  Huge plate VERY high in sodium.  I finally felt full for about an hour.  From volume, nobody should consume that much food in 4 hours, ever.  I also had a bowl of cereal before falling asleep around 10 pm.

Sunday: Cereal for breakfast, then we hit up the Kickin Chicken for lunch.  It's one of our favorite places in Charleston, the sandwich had fried chicken strips on it, buffalo sauce, and a side of fries.  Fried stuff and hot sauce are both very high in sodium and fat.  Drove back to Raleigh and had a Five Guys cheeseburger and fries for dinner.  One huge fat cheeseburger and fries is my traditional reward meal after a big race or milestone.  Breaking 4 hours in the marathon was that big race and milestone.  More cereal before bed.

Monday: Oatmeal for breakfast.  Finally something normal and healthy.  I got scared after seeing the Monday  Morning Naked Weight (MMNW).  Leftover vegetarian shepard's pie for lunch.  Imagine if you will, the hunger you get a few days after marathoning.  Then go out for all you can eat tacos on monday night.  This place near the house has $5 all you can eat tacos every monday.  Normal sized meals would be maybe 3 of these tacos.  I usually eat 5 or 6 when I'm hungry, but marathon hungry took that to 7 tacos.  We fed the entire family for under $20.  I love this place.  I ate myself stupid and still had some cereal before bed.

Tuesday: Oatmeal for breakfast.  My buddy Jeff wanted to meet up for lunch, I haven't seen him in a while so that was great.  We met at a wing place with a 59 cent lunch special, so 10 wings had me way stuffed and over full.  seriously.  During the ironman training build phase I would get the same 10 wings with a side of fries and still lose weight.  that's how much you work off during the ironman build.  For dinner, Bigun had an Indian Princess meetup at a pizza place with the tribe, so I gorged myself on pizza there too.  Pizza and wings are healthy right?  That's like a 5000 calorie day.  At least I skipped the cereal before bed.

Dehydration
Running will leave you dehydrated.  Especially long runs like 26.2 miles.  It was so cold and windy, my clothes were dry when I finished.  But just because I didn't actually sweat I still lost a lot of body water through evaporation.  It's more than you think.  Cold races are still dangerous.  You cannot possibly take in enough water with or without electrolytes to replenish what you lose during a marathon, so post-race hydration is so important.  Electrolytes are salts, and you lose a ton of body salt during a race like that too.  Even if it's not visible (sweat) it still happens.  I promise.

My super secret recovery strategy is to drink three bottles of water at the finish line.  Really as soon as you can swallow again, drink three bottles.  of water.  Then you can chase it with something else like chocolate milk, muscle milk, Endurox, Recoverite, beer, whatever.  But it has to start with lots of water.

Since dehydration removes lots of water and salt from your body, the nature of recovery is to retain as much water as possible to prepare for the marathon you're going to run the next day. That's just how the body thinks.  Even though you know you're not going to run another marathon the next day, that's still mother nature's reaction.  So what do I do?  I take in lots of salt from the fried foods, then lots of water, and the body goes into ultra storage mode retaining water like it's going out of style.

The crazy thing is that the way to get rid of all that retained water?  Drink more water.  It will eventually flush the salts and retention water from the cells in a few days.  I think vitamins A, C & D help too, but I can't tell you why.

The weighty issue
Before that Ironman - a scant 70 days or so ago - my weight peaked at a low point like it should around 165 lbs, which is my ideal racing weight.  I don't like to harp on numbers on the scale, but I'm trying to make a point here.  10 days after Ironman I was back up to 176 lbs.  Same eating pattern as above.  My comfort zone is officially 170 - 180 lbs, I like to be around 175 with a body fat percentage in the mid-teens.  I'm 6'1", that's a normal weight for my height and a BMI of 23.

Before Charleston, I came in at 178 lbs and 18.4% body fat, which is pretty ok for a Friday.  By the time I got this week's MMNW, I was up to 185.4 and 20.2% body fat.  So how did I burn 3900 calories during the race and gain 7 lbs?

It's all water retention from the salt and fried foods.  Monday morning at 6 am is only partway through the food log above.  I start every morning with a 22 oz bike bottle full of water, then four cups of coffee after my oatmeal (don't judge me).  Then another 32 oz bottle of water on my desk all day at work, sometimes I'll fill it up twice.  Plus 3 more cups of coffee or tea in the afternoon and another bottle of water after dinner.  That's a lot of hydration.  It is flushing the retained water out though.  Tuesday I was down to 183.  Who loses weight after all you can eat tacos?  Wednesday was 182, and today was 181.  I should be back to normal in a few more days.

So don't freak out if you gain some weight during marathon training or put on a bunch of weight quickly after running the big race.  Sure, I'm still freaking out a bit and I know better.  Have you ever freaked out like that?  it's tough mentally to deal with.

Other news:
As cold as it was during the race and all day Saturday, I forgot to mention that Sunday we woke up to bright, sunny, 61 degrees with no wind blowing.  Perfect conditions.  Where was that on race day?

I ran three miles yesterday very slow in recovery format.  Just trying to work out the kinks.  During the race my right foot got some new pain.  There is a swelling/fluid buildup thing on the outside of my right foot, right in the middle where there is normally a joint of the foot bones.  The pain went away (but not the fluid), but came roaring back with yesterday's run.  So today I'm going to find a doctor to tell me what that is and how to treat it.  I don't like this at all.

The yoga practice is going great.  I took Saturday off as planned for the race, but still got on the mat Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and last night Kelley and I both went back for the yoga class we've been getting into at the gym.  It has actually felt really good and helped the muscles recover from the marathon.  I'm still in the beginning poses, so nothing harder than down dog or warrior 1.  But it's a lot of fun.
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