1. Increase your caloric intake.
The first thing a runner has to look at when they’re overly tired (or worse, overtrained) is the amount of calories they’re taking in on a daily basis. The reality is that most runners do not eat enough calories to fuel their daily expenditure. This lack of calories means the muscles aren’t getting the nutrients and fuel they need to recover optimally.
Usually, this caloric deficit is a result of runners wanting to lose weight to hit their “racing weight”, or perhaps just to be healthier in general. Unfortunately, trying to lose weight and training hard are two diametrically opposite goals; you need to restrict calories to lose weight and you need to consume calories to train hard.
So, if you find yourself feeling lethargic or riding that line between overtraining and optimal training, it’s important that put your weight-loss goals on hiatus for a few weeks and give your body the fuel it needs to recover.
How to intelligently increase calorie intake:
Determine the total number calories you’re burning per day. This number includes your basal metabolic rate (how many calories you burn without exercise) in addition to the number of calories you burned on your run. For a simple way to way to determine this number, you can use this handy runner’s calorie calculator.
Next, since you’re focused on optimal recovery, add an extra 300-500 calories to your total calorie expenditure for the day to guarantee you’re getting in all the calories and nutrients you need. While it may feel like you’re cheating your weight-loss goals in the short-term, calorie cycling (a short period of eating more calories) can actually help dieters break through weight-loss plateaus by resetting the metabolism.
It’s also important that you increase your calorie intake at the right times and with the right foods. Simply eating an extra helping at dinner or having a handful of junk food at work isn’t going to help you recover. Instead, focus on adding nutrient-dense and protein-rich foods immediately before or after your workouts or adding a protein supplement to your morning or nighttime routine. By eating the right foods at the right time, you can increase the speed at which your body recovers.