What’s the deal with the post-long-run munchies – that feeling, after a long run, that no amount of food can ever fill the bottomless pit?
At one point, I decided I would make a concerted effort to find the answer to those cravings.
I thought, “I’ll attack it scientifically.” After several long runs, I did all the right things. Within the first 15 minutes of finishing, I drank a high-carb, high-protein Recoverite smoothie, and within an hour or two I drank a second smoothie with buttermilk, Recoverite, dates, and pineapple.
Later, I made huge salad with wonderful ingredients: Romaine, shredded carrot, beet, and zucchini, pecans, peas, and a dressing of avocado and frozen pineapple juice.
I was eating everything that science said my body needed. My post-long-run diet was exploding with nutrition. Yet the munchies didn’t go away.
I would trek back and forth to the kitchen where I would stare blankly in the fridge, seeking the food that would silence the beast in my tummy. Feed me, Seymour!
What was I missing? Fatty acids? I bent my normal vegetarian diet and ate a bit of salmon. No luck.
Finally, I did what always seems to work when my rational mind runs out of data. I prayed for the answer. In a long life, I’ve found that God is far from the remote, impractical figure that some people make Him out to be. I find that He’s lovingly eager to help, if I take the trouble to ask with a sincere heart.
The thought occurred that maybe I needed some whole-milk dairy food. (The buttermilk in the smoothie was low-fat.)
After my next long run, I ate a half-pint of full-fat cottage cheese 30 minutes after my finish-line smoothie – and the munchies vanished.
I definitely grazed for the rest of the day – that’s normal after a long run. But the hollow feeling was gone.
I find I can get about the same result if I eat pizza, except I have to eat more because of the relatively low nutrient quality. And I don’t feel all that great afterward, possibly because cooking destroys some of the nutrients. A toasted bagel with full-fat cream cheese works better – sometimes just a half-bagel with a half-inch schmear is enough.
In Pete Sampras’s autobiography, A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis, he tells how he began having violent cravings for all the “wrong” foods before a major tournament.
Sampras was disciplined about his diet, and he refused to give in to the devil that was tempting him to eat pizza, hot dogs, and burgers.
During the event, he felt depleted, with low energy, poor concentration, and sagging spirits. After bombing in the early rounds, he realized that his body had really needed those greasy foods .
What about eating fats before long runs? Sure thing. I find that eggs eaten the night before a long effort increase my strength and endurance (not consistently, but seemingly only if I’m short on certain nutrients they contain). Milk products, I find, are better for recovery. Research cited in an article on the Hammer Nutrition website indicates that digesting dairy products releases ammonia, which has serious detrimental effects on performance. Taking dairy before and/or during runs makes me perspire heavily and makes me slower; because of this, I don’t take running fuels that contain whey protein.
Hey, I just thought of the perfect recovery food. Ice cream! Seriously – it’s got carbs, fat, and protein.
In fact, many runners swear by chocolate milk, which after all is just melted chocolate ice cream.
When this kind of thing happens, I’m as delighted by the process as by the answers I receive. It confirms yet again that the spiritual path is the most practical life imaginable – a truth I’ve experienced for going on 45 years.