If you are a runner, you will need to choose post-run foods depending on the intensity of the exercise and other goals like weight control. If you’re concerned that recovery food is limited to barely palatable “recovery drinks” and energy bars available off the shelf, think again! Fresh crunchy salads, creamy yogurts, tangy berries, and even wholesome salmon, tuna, turkey, or chicken meals can make recovering from a run a treat for your tastebuds.
A long run can take its toll on your body and so can any kind of strenuous running routine. While you’re probably fuelling up well before a run, it is easy to forget about what happens after. Loss of salt and minerals such as potassium and sodium, glycogen store depletion, dehydration and fatigue, and even micro damage to muscles, as they become sore from all the pounding on the ground, will leave your body in need of some TLC after a run. And your choice of meals – both food and drink – play a big role in post-run recovery. Also, having a delicious but healthy post-run meal plan can serve as added motivation to keep fit!
What Does The Body Need After A Run?
Considering the stress your body experiences during a run, giving it the appropriate nourishment afterward is important for quick recovery. Here is what you should aim to consume after a run.
Carbohydrates: After a run or any form of exercise, your body eats into its energy or glycogen stores. Researchers suggest having carbohydrates in your recovery meal within about 30 minutes of completing a run. This can stimulate muscle glycogen resynthesis. Try and have foods that are easily digestible like fruit or vegetables which can bring blood sugar levels back to normal while also providing you with nourishment, antioxidants, and minerals.
Protein: Having protein after a run is important if you hope to keep your muscles in good working order and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It is also optimal to have this recovery meal soon after you finish a run and not several hours later. Plus, combining protein intake with carbs is said to enhance your body’s ability to replenish glycogen and synthesize protein.The exact amount is something you will need to work out based on your body type, your weight, and the intensity of your runs. A rule of thumb that works for most people is to have 0.14 to 0.23 gm of protein for every pound of your body weight.
Electrolytes And Fluids: Sports drinks are a popular choice among runners because they achieve the twin goal of hydrating you while also replenishing salts lost through sweat.4However, you could also whip up fresh homemade juices and smoothies that give you a combination of minerals and fluids.
Best Recovery Foods To Eat After Running
Now that you know the kind of foods you should be eating after a run, here’s a look at some of the best foods you can pick from. You will need to choose how much of them to have and in what ratios depending on how intense your training session or run has been. For instance, after a marathon or a very intense run, you should rehydrate and get in a quick carb-boosting snack immediately. Follow it up with a proper meal a little later. For less intense running, you could focus on replenishing water and electrolytes first and leave the heavier eating to an hour or two later if need be.
1. Fresh Fruit
Not only does a fruit like banana make a great recovery food because of how easy it is to digest, but it also helps replenish potassium to keep the electrolyte balance after a sweaty run. Have oranges and you will benefit from the vitamin C in them – it can fight muscle damage and the oxidative stress your body experiences after a run. You can have fruits whole or try out some of these easy snack ideas.
Fruit smoothies made from bananas or mangoes, combined with low-fat yogurt or skimmed milk
Fresh fruit juice
Fruit salad made with a handful of berries combined with mangoes or bananas
Fruit with nuts or seeds scattered over
Yogurt with fresh berries
Cherry juice to fight post-run pain
2. Chocolate Milk
Chocolate milk earns itself a special place on the list of recovery foods not just for its deliciousness but also because research indicates it does its job very well. A recovery food that is easy to carry to a gym or outdoors, chocolate milk is the perfect mix of carbs with protein. It will help your muscles recover and restore energy. Not to mention a little chocolate can be the perfect mood upper for a lot of people!
Just be sure it is made from skimmed milk and doesn’t have too much sugar in it. You could amp up the drink with bananas if you’ve had an especially strenuous run.
3. Low-Fat Yogurt
Yogurt can be a versatile post-workout snack that has lots of the protein you seek. Add in some granola for a twist. The oats taste delicious and are also a good source of fiber to help keep up immunity in general. After a workout, the oats can also be that all-important carbohydrate source to restore energy levels and replenish glycogen stores. If you prefer your yogurt savory, just get plain low-fat Greek yogurt.
Yogurt and honey is another great combo. Honey is a great natural sweetener that has a lot of goodness. It also gives you the instant energy hit you need after a tiring run. Yogurt and berries is another sensible (and yummy!) choice. By adding berries to your yogurt, you will get the antioxidants needed to counter the oxidative stress to muscles from the run.
4. Nut Butter
Nut butters are a good alternative to old-fashioned, cholesterol-laden butter. They taste great too! Have some almond nut butter that can give you vitamin E to combat muscle damage and oxidative stress after running.Try one of these combinations:
Bananas and nut butter
Nut butter on wholegrain toast
Nut butter on crackers
Apples with nut butter
Creamy smoothie with almond butter, yogurt, and bananas
Walnut, almond butter, oats, banana and honey or maple syrup recovery bars
5. Chicken Or Turkey
Lean proteins like chicken or turkey are a good way to have your protein after a run. Just be sure to cook them with less fat – ideally with healthy fats like olive oil. Steaming, poaching, or roasting the breast meat without the skin will keep the calorie intake down if you’re also weight watching or calorie counting.
The American Council on Exercise suggests slices of turkey breast in its exercise recovery snack ideas. Here are some more options you could try:
Sliced chicken/turkey breast with mixed greens and a vinaigrette
Sliced chicken/turkey breast with hummus
Sliced chicken/turkey breast with avocado on wholegrain toast
6. Tuna Or Salmon
Fatty fish like tuna and salmon are good for main meals for runners because of their inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acid content. But they can work in smaller portions for post-run recovery snacks too. Research has found that because of their effect on the body’s inflammatory response, such fish can minimize the muscle soreness and pain you experience after exercise. Have them after a run or any kind of strength training that you do.Explore these combinations:
Tuna on wholewheat bread/toast
Mediterranean-style salmon couscous salad with red peppers, olives, cherry tomatoes, and lime vinaigrette
Salmon, avocado, grapefruit salad with flaked almonds and lime vinaigrette
Tuna with hummus, mustard, celery, and lettuce
Tuna and wholewheat pasta with vegetables like green beans and onions for some flavor
What To Eat Depending On Run Intensity
Adapt what you’re eating based on whether you had a very intense, long, normal, or moderate-paced run. Regardless of whether your run was intense or not, do have proteins, antioxidant-rich foods, and anti-inflammatory foods that can repair muscle damage. The quantity of carbs you consume is what changes most.