Multi-day races are becoming more and more popular. Maybe you have your eye on the Squamish 50; a
two-day ultramarathon race where you tackle 50 miles of mountain trails on Saturday and follow it up
with a 50K on Sunday. Mountain bike stage races are becoming popular; BreckEpic features six days of
mountain bike racing in the Rockies where trails frequently top 13,000 ft. Or are you headed to the
Ultimate Frisbee National Tournament where you will play a game or two a day for a week? Or if a
destination vacation features several days in a row of big efforts and you want to enjoy the final day as
much as the first, your recovery strategy between days is the key to success and having fun (aka. less
When you do a long or hard physical effort where you are pushing your limits, your body gives its all.
You burn through your glycogen stores (predominant fuel for muscle performance) and the byproducts
of fuel consumption (metabolic waste) accumulate in your muscles, making them sore. A reduction in
strength and endurance is significant when glycogen, primarily sourced from carbohydrates, has not
been restored in muscles, a factor made worse by decreased appetite or gastrointestinal issues from
physical exhaustion. In addition, tissue repair and restoration occur predominantly in deep sleep, which is
often elusive when you’re in a strange bed, in a different climate and your brain is in overdrive replaying
the days events and anticipating tomorrows.
Fortunately, developing a recovery routine can mitigate fatigue and amplify your muscle restoration.
Here are some tips:
Recovery begins BEFORE you head out the door.
- Be hydrated. Alternate water and an electrolyte drink (Gnarly Hydrate, hint hint) starting the
- Eat a good meal the night before that features protein and healthy fats along with complex
carbohydrates. Salmon, roasted brussel sprouts and a sweet potato is my “go-to” dinner.
- Eat a good breakfast at least three hrs. before your event. This meal will be the last time you
will be able to consume significant protein and fat until you are done with your effort for the
day. It takes around three hours to digest this meal. Eggs, buckwheat pancakes and avocado
are my regular pre-event meal.
- If your event starts very early in the morning and eating three hours before the start is not
possible, eat a breakfast of complex carbohydrates at least an hour before you start. Toast with
nut butter and banana or oatmeal work well.
Don’t go negative during your effort
- Warm-up! This wakes your body up gently for the task ahead. Not warming up reduces your
ability to utilize fat for fuel and will deplete glycogen stores more rapidly. Skipping this step also
increases the micro-damage to muscles giving your body even more to repair overnight and
increasing the likelihood of injury.
- Stay hydrated and take electrolytes (um…Gnarly Hydrate) the entire time you are active. You
only feel thirsty when you are already dehydrated, so drink BEFORE you feel thirsty!
- Keep fueled. Your body can replace half of the calories you are burning while you are exercising.
Aim to consume 250 – 500 calories and hour. The more intense or lengthy the effort, the more
calories you are burning.
- Remember you are doing this again tomorrow, so budget your energy. A sprint to the finish that
won’t improve your overall standing is probably not a wise choice.
As soon as you finish the effort you still have work to do.
- Cool-down. Do not just stop. You need some gentle movement to let your muscles flush out
the metabolic waste products from the hard effort.
- Drink a recovery beverage within 20 minutes of finishing your session. You can do this while
cooling down. There are many products on the market (such as Gnarly Whey or Gnarly Vegan)
or you can make your own. It should be around 200 calories and have a 1:4 ratio of protein to
Some of my favorite home-made recovery beverages:
- Mango coconut milk smoothie
- Banana peanut butter shake (ingredients below)
- Hot cocoa with whipped cream
As soon as you get home
- Have a good meal with complex carbohydrates and rehydrate.
- Ice bath. Make sure you warm back up after this in a warm shower. You don’t want to expend
extra energy shivering.
- Keep your legs up and use compression tights if you have them.
- Do as little as possible. Take advantage of your support crew to cook, take care of equipment
and organize logistics.
- Gentle massage, stretching or foam rolling are great ONLY if this is part of your regular routine. If these are not, they create more stress on your body and impede recovery.
- Get a good night sleep. This can be difficult, so develop a sleep routine before the event.