Category Archives for Recovery

Protein Hack to Gain Muscle

There have been some impressive studies coming out lately in regards to consuming protein before bed.

When you think about it, this makes sense. During sleep our body releases human growth hormone, it’s a key time for regeneration from the day’s training load.

Giving the body some protein to work with overnight makes sense.

Below are three studies that have looked at pre-bed protein:

Physical Activity Performed in the Evening Increases the Overnight Muscle Protein Synthetic Response to Presleep Protein Ingestion in Older Men | 

This was a study on 23 men with an average age of 71, so older than we typically hear about. Participants engaged in evening physical activity then consumed 40g of casein a half hour before bed. This resulted in increased overnight myofibrillar protein synthesis.

Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men

Here we have younger men in their 20’s on a 12-week progressive strength training program. One group received a pre-bed protein+carb supplement while the other consumed a non-nutritive supplement.

This study may be more interesting than the above since the control group from above did not exercise or take the supplement while this control group did still exercise.

Of course, both groups experienced muscle strength increases and muscle size increases. The men taking the pre-bed protein supplement did experience greater gains in both cases. I would have preferred the control group to have still taken the same supplement, but perhaps gradually throughout the day. This study suggests that the extra protein+carbs assisted with greater adaptations, but did the pre-bed timing of it matter? Probably, but I’m not sure.

Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery.

Here again, we have some young men performing resistance training in the PM. Both groups received a casein pr0+carb supplement immediately after exercise, however, only one group received further supplementation immediately before bed. Mixed muscle protein synthesis was 22% higher in the protein group.

Why Casein?!?

Casein works well in these studies because it is a slow release protein. Whey protein results in a rapid increase in plasma amino acids and a quick increase in protein synthesis. The influence of whey is short lived. While both whey and casein protein are in milk, casein is more abundant. Casein results in prolonged and more gradual increases in blood amino acids and the net protein balance remained more positive with casein over a 7 hour period. This characteristic of casein is attributed to its slower gastric (stomach) emptying and slower absorption rate from the intestine to the blood. Obviously, casein is the better choice to consume before a 6-8 hour overnight fast! If you want a protein supplement to consume during the day immediately post-workout, a mixture of whey and casein is optimal.

So, How Do YOU Use This Information?

Cow milk is 82% casein and 18% whey protein. I’m much more inclined to simply recommend milk after a strenuous workout and before bed. It’s more simple to take since you only need to pour a glass, no scooping and mixing necessary. Depending on the quality of protein supplements you purchase the milk may higher grade. I’m usually one to select local milk and egg choices.

Plant-Based Protein Options?

I’m going on a decade as a plant-based athlete. Most of this time has been as a vegetarian with stints as vegan, raw vegan, and pescatarian. Currently, I eat local or free-range eggs  a few times weekly.

I grew up on a dairy farm and choose to not support that type of industry. However, recently I did come across a milk brand that may be a superb choice for those looking for a more ethically sourced milk, and that choice is Fairlife.com. The extra-interesting thing about their milk is that it’s filtered to remove some of the sugar+liquid, which means it has more protein and less sugar in each cup than typical milk. You can read about their more humane and environmentally conscious farming practices here. I’ll drink their chocolate milk after hard workout or drink a few cups of it before going to bed.

For a fully plant-based option that is a slow release protein (the whole point of taking it before bed) you are best to look at a pea+rice protein supplement, I take Vega Sport, which does not contain rice protein. The pea protein is still slow release so can still do the trick or you can simply find some rice protein to mix into some pea protein.

What to do between events close together

When you have events 1 day to 3 weeks apart, they are close enough that the damage done during the first race can potentially negatively influence the second event.

To run your best on both days there are a few considerations you must be mindful of.

1) Properly Pacing
If the first event is longer than a half hour and you run it at best effort, you’ll probably have some sort of fatigue the week after. When the event is 5 miles to 26.2 miles it could take a week to a month to actually be regenerated from the race if done at best effort.

This means you may have to take the first event at a less than best effort if you do not desire it to hinder your running ability at the second race. A half three weeks before a half is cutting it close, but a 5k a week before a half should be no problem for most people. In the former example doing the first half at a 9/10 effort and the second half at a 10/10 effort will likely result in the best average time between the two. Yet for the latter example you can probably do the 5k at best effort and it should not hinder the half.

2) Regeneration After the 1st Event
If you give your body the opportunity to adapt after the first race, if you’re lucky you can even benefit from it for the second run. This mainly comes down to following a reverse taper to rest and ease back into running gradually and eating well before, during, and after the first race.

"Here are some great tips on how to handle the time between two races that are close together!" – Click to Tweet!

3) Tools to Speed Recovery
There are a number of “tools” you can take advantage of after a race to speed up your recovery. What you should be aware of is that these may decrease the adaptation (benefit) you get from the first workout, but in most cases when you’re under a time crunch for a second event you’re not looking to benefit from a race.

First is curcumin, the powerful anti-inflammatory in tumeric or ginger, can possibly decrease muscle damage when taken after a hard training session. This is not something to use too often, as this decrease in muscle damage and inflammation likely results in less benefit from the workout. But like I said, you’re not racing to get better (that’s what workouts are for).

Second is the ice bath. Much like curcumin, this may decrease fitness adaptations from a workout but after a race it may speed up how quickly you are able to return to full strength.

Update: I had someone reply back to my newsletter about this subject asking about two ultra marathons twelve weeks apart. My answer was to follow a three week running reverse-taper then go back into week nine of the schedule this person followed for the first ultra. 

Reverse Taper

A taper is when you go from your highest training level and reduce your volume over a few weeks to let the body sharpen up and peak for a big race.

The idea behind a reverse taper is to go the other direction – from little or minimal training back to more running.

A reverse taper schedule is useful in a number of scenarios:

  1. When you need to recover between two races close together.
  2. When you need to take a period of rest.
  3. When you need to ease back in to running after a period of rest

You can download this + other tips from me HERE!


The below plan (inspired by Runner Connect) is what I use for myself and my athletes. Typically, this immediately follows a 13.1 mile or longer race at best effort and counts as a period of rest from training. It’s the recovery bridge between their big race and their next training block.

  • Saturday/Sunday Race
  • Week One
    • Monday: Rest
    • Tuesday: Rest
    • Wednesday: Rest
    • Thursday: 20-40 minutes cross-training
    • Friday: Easy 20-30 minute jog
    • Saturday: 20-40 minutes cross-training
    • Sunday: Rest
  • Week Two
    • Monday: Easy 30-40 minutes run
    • Tuesday: 30-45 minutes cross-training
    • Wednesday: easy 30 + moderate 10 minutes cross-training
    • Thursday: Easy 30-50 minutes run
    • Friday: Easy 25 + moderate 15 minutes cross-training
    • Saturday: Easy 30-50 minutes run
    • Sunday: Rest
  • Week Three
    • Monday: Easy 40-70 minute run with a stride every 10 minutes
    • Tuesday: Easy 50-80 minute jog
    • Wednesday: Easy 40-70 run with a stride every 10 minutes
    • Thursday: Rest
    • Friday: Easy 50-80 minutes with a stride every 10 minutes
    • Saturday: Easy 50-80 minutes with a stride every 10 minutes
    • Sunday: Rest

Cross-Training = anything non-running such as walking, cycling, rowing, the elliptical, swimming.

Strides = 30-second accelerations from your regular easy pace to a moderately hard effort level.

How to Easily Convert Run Training to Cross Training

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One of the biggest mistakes people make when taking a period of rest from running due to injury is NOT cross-training.

With cycling, rowing, swimming, water running, or the elliptical, you can preserve a great deal of running fitness while at the same time letting the injury heal.

For runners on a training plan, the simplest method is to simply continue their plan or routine while converting running minutes to cross-training minutes.

Below is a sample running week.

M: EZ4 (miles)
T: EZ8 with strides
W: EZ4
T: EZ3, MOD3, EZ2
F: EZ4 with strides
S: EZ10+HARD2
S: Rest

Now if you know your average training pace is roughly 9 minutes per mile, simply take 9 or 10 minutes for every mile and do that on the bike or the elliptical.

It would look like this, numbers slightly rounded:

M: EZ40 (minutes)
T: EZ80 minutes with accelerations
W: EZ40
T: EZ30, MOD30, EZ20
F: EZ40
S: EZ100+HARD20
S: Rest

Race Recovery Schedule

Here is a rough plan I give to my athletes after an event that includes at least 1.5 or so hours at race effort.

Feel free to modify it to your own needs and how your own body feels. Please please please do not run with tight muscles. Doing this influences your entire run gait and risks injury.

Generally, it is recommended that an athlete may require one day before another key workout for every mile at race pace. I think it’s a pretty decent recommendation.

It is important to recognize that even though you may feel ok, you’re not! 2+ hours at race pace is no longer a workout and may be more like a traumatic event for your body.

If you allow your body to recover properly, you hopefully will even benefit from the long race with some quality adaptation. However, if you push it, you are likely to injure yourself and potentially delay training even further.



Days 1-7 Post Event
Day 1 Rest / Walk
Day 2 Rest / Walk
Day 3 Rest / Walk
Day 4 30-45 minutes cross training
Day 5 EZ run of 20-40 minutes
Day 6 Rest / Walk
Day 7 30-45 minutes cross training

Days 8-14 Post Event
Day 8 EZ run of 30-60 minutes
Day 9 15 minutes more of cross-training than you ran yesterday
Day 10 Same amount of cross-training as the previous day
Day 11 EZ hour run
Day 12 EZ hour run
Day 13 Same amount of cross-training as previous
Day 14 Rest / Walk

Days 15-21 Post Event
Day 15 EZ hour-ish or longer with a few short 30 second strides during the run (we’re finally starting to wake up the legs again!)
Day 16 EZ run, no strides, a bit shorter than yesterday
Day 17 Similar to day 15
Day 18 Rest/Walk
Day 19 EZ hour with strides
Day 20 EZ hour with strides
Day 21 Rest/Walk

Now, you just completed a week with 5 runs and some strides. You are at a point where you could start resuming more serious training and adding back in strength work.

NotCross-training

ning can be anything that is not going to fatigue you. Cycling, swimming, hiking, elliptical, gentle yoga, etc. Have some fun and maybe try something new!

During this period of regeneration, none of these are workouts. They should be stimulating, but not fatiguing. Almost consider them warmups for a workout that never happens. Take them very very easy and relaxed. Don’t run with a GPS if that helps you slow down.

If you feel like you should stop, stop. Walk home. End the session. That’s good advice for any workout at any time of the year, but especially important in the period of time after a marathon.

The listed run durations are just estimates. If you topped out at 40 miles a week during marathon training, you may want to reduce these times. If you topped out at 90 miles, you may be able to run a bit longer.