What to eat after a run, especially a long one, is a question many ask themselves. After all, you likely just burnt an insane amount of calories. You should be able to have something to reward yourself for your efforts, right? While in moderation, any food can be fit into a healthy lifestyle, what you eat directly after your run does matter.
A quick run that is only a couple of miles will not require much, if anything. Pounding the pavement for longer than 45 minutes will require some form of replenishment. The hunger and tiredness you likely feel are signs that you need to refuel.
Ideally, you will want to consume a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within an hour of finishing your workout. Not all carbs are created equally, though. While I love cookies as much as the next person (hence the recipe section! I have a sweet tooth, what can I say!), snacking on them post-run is not the best time to indulge. Instead, you will want to refuel with a mixture of complex carbs along with roughly 15 grams of protein.
Here are some optimal choices to get the most out of your run:
Have you ever noticed that after a race, bananas are handed out at the finish line along with a bottle of water and your hard-earned finishers medal? There’s a reason for this. Banana’s are so versatile and perfect for a post-run snack. An added bonus is that they are high in potassium which will help prevent muscle cramps and replenish electrolytes. If you are able, spread some nut butter on your banana or mix it into a protein smoothie for an ideal carb and protein treat.
Like bananas, sweet potatoes are another great option to nosh on post-race. They also have high potassium and taste great without anything added to them. Additionally, sweet potatoes have adequate fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and have a reputation of having a protecting effect on cells, which is especially essential for athletes.
Wait! What?!?! I was shocked the first time I heard this too. I mean, chocolate milk sounds like a decadent treat that you sneak when nobody is looking. You’ll want to go for the low-fat variety, but overall it is the perfect 3:1 ratio post-race fuel. It is also packed with protein, calcium, sodium, and the ever-important Vitamin D. Plus, there is no preparation. You just grab a glass, pour, and you’re set. Or, if nobody is looking, drink it straight from the jug. I won’t tell anyone!
After mentioning chocolate milk, oatmeal probably sounds pretty boring! But it doesn’t have to be. Oatmeal is packed with the carbohydrates, protein, and fiber that your body will be craving. Not only is it nutritions, but it is also filling. To spruce it up, add your favorite fruits and some cinnamon. I personally love fresh berries on my oatmeal.
This is another yummy choice when it comes to refueling after your run. It has protein, carbs, Vitamin D, and calcium. I will usually get plain Greek yogurt and stir in a little chocolate protein powder for flavor. I’ll then load it with fresh strawberries and blueberries and top it with a little bit of granola for some crunch. This treat feels like eating dessert, and it will keep you full for hours.
Cottage Cheese & Fruit
Cottage cheese alone has calcium and protein, plus sodium to help in replenishing lost electrolytes. Top it with fruit for an added bonus. I personally always love pineapple on top of my cottage cheese. The combination is both filling and delicious and will keep you full until your next meal.
If you want a meal instead of a snack after your run, pasta isn’t off the table despite its bad reputation. Pasta is a great choice because of its high carbohydrate content, which is ideal for replenishing low glycogen from your workout. Look for a whole-grain variety and top it with meat sauce to add some protein. Combine with fresh veggies, and you are good to go for a complete and nutritious meal. Try to limit portions to 1 cup of cooked pasta.
Nuts or Nut Butter
Specifically, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews. Nuts are loaded with protein, fiber, healthy fats, and nutrients that help aid in post-run recovery. If possible, buy your nuts raw and unsalted as these will provide the most benefit. You can also have a spoonful of natural nut butter if it is more convenient for you. Spread some natural almond butter on an apple for a tasty carb and protein snack.
Eggs by themselves are a fantastic food for post-run recovery. They have protein and are packed with amino acids. Add it a mixture of vegetables, and you have a nutritious meal that’ll be hard to beat. Spinach, mushrooms, green pepper, and onion are just a few the veggies that make a tasty meal after a long run. If you don’t feel like making an omelet, you can eat your eggs any way you prefer. You will reap the benefits either way!
As you can see, your post-run fuel doesn’t have to be bland. There are plenty of tasty options for what you can nosh on after you put in your miles. The key is choosing the right foods to get the most out of all of your hard work. I know the last thing you want is to undo all of the good you just did and not gain benefit from it. Choosing the most optimal foods mean easier recovery for your body as well. It’s a win-win!
And don’t forget to hydrate! Making up for lost water due to sweating is just as important as your post-workout recovery meal. Consuming both will help you feel more energized and ready to take on your next run.