Q. Ever since doing an Ironman 10 days ago I've been starving and craving rubbish like chocolate and biscuits. Is this normal?
A. Recovery is an important element of an endurance event such as an Ironman. If you don't do this adequately you may crave quick energy from refined foods such chocolate and biscuits.
Ideally, refuelling should start just after you cross the finish line. This is because your body's stores of glycogen (the carbohydrate that is stored in the muscles and liver) are depleted. During the first 30 minutes to two hours after exercise glycogen storage is faster than at any other time, as your blood flow is increased and your muscle cells are more sensitive to insulin. So when you're preparing for an event in the future ensure that you have a goody bag at the end of the race that contains snacks you enjoy.
The aim is to have approximately 50-100 grams of carbohydrate within 30 minutes of finishing exercise and for efficient glycogen refuelling, the aim is then to continue to eat at least 50g of carbohydrate every two hours until your next main meal.
While the emphasis is mostly on carbohydrates studies have also shown that including some protein (10-18g is ideal) in your post-event or workout snack or meal helps to replenish the glycogen more quickly.
Some good post-event snacks are cereal bars, fruit and yoghurt, toast with nut butter, dried fruit, or cereal with yoghurt and milk. Some of the best carbohydrate sources are brown rice, whole barley, whole buckwheat, whole rye, foxtail millet, wild rice, whole corn, whole wheat and rolled oats.
It is important to look at your overall diet. It is not surprising that you are still hungry if you are indulging in these refined foods. Always try to combine complex carbs with a little protein. It is this protein portion that will help you to feel fuller for longer.
Henrietta Bailey is a nutritionist who works as part of the Pure Sports Medicine team (puresportsmed.com). She specialises in sports nutrition and performance, obesity, cardiovascular issues, and diabetes and insulin resistance. She has worked with professional athletes and non-elites. She is a member of the Nutrition Therapy Council (NTC) and the British Association for Nutrition Therapy (BANT).