Discipline plays a great part in training and running. Dietary discipline is one of the most powerful tools a runner can learn to manipulate and control. Good things go in, good results come out, is a very non-eloquent way to get to the point. It does seem like though that sometimes you have to give up everything you love food-wise in preparation for a race. Granted my running diet changes the closer I get to a big race and the more mileage I do training. I'm eating things now that I will not be eating in a month.
That type of discipline is the responsible runner in me. The one who wants to give up desserts and have a couple drinks a week to run stronger and be healthier. The idea sounds good theoretically (and yes, it does make a difference to do it). Practically though, I know I can eat even more desserts and drink even more beer when my mileage is consistently higher than normal. I also know from experience I get pretty darn ravenous at times, and think I can afford to eat anything because of the runs I'm logging.
Unfortunately both scenarios are quite true in my life, and it's a balancing game we all get to play. It's not the worst game either, I might add. Also, unfortunately, what you just read is not what I sat down to write about, and I have no way of transitioning into the topic of this post.
As important as what you put into your body is at determining your performance, what you refuel with and when are two incredibly important variables as well.
The power of food comes into play just as much after a run as before. Eating and drinking within 30-60 minutes of a long run helps your body recover from your run and repair itself for the next one. If you think about it this way, when your muscles are working hard, they are tearing, and the protein and carbs that you refuel with after a run help your torn muscles repair themselves. Carbs and protein should make up a large portion of your diet overall, for both fueling and refueling.
Also, even if you hydrated well before a run and took a water bottle with you, rehydrating is still necessary after your run. You can gauge your hydration based on the color of your pee or by the frequency of how often you're going to the bathroom. Drink water and electrolytes to replenish your body to the point where you are not thirsty anymore. If you're thirsty, by all means drink! You should be going to the bathroom after a long run within an hour of finishing, and your pee should look like lemonade or clearer.
Unless you're just finishing a race, you can probably get away with snacking smart or a light meal after your training runs. Eating the right combination of carbs and protein, with less sugary carbs, after a run can prevent the physical and mental crash that often ensues without proper refueling. Especially if you've another run that day or the next, repairing those muscles is a must in order to have strength and energy for the next time. I've even heard the drinking watermelon juice is a great way to refuel. Although I haven't tried it myself, I'd be curious to hear about it's effects.
How do you refuel? This post was prompted by my own poor refueling, can you relate?