The question

I am running my first marathon on May 17. What should I eat afterwards to recover quickly? I want to get back to running as soon as possible.

The answer

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Recovering after a marathon is a key component of your training program. Yet, it’s one that many runners neglect. Running 26.2 miles puts an enormous amount of stress on your body – whether it’s your first or your 10th marathon – so it is important to start your recovery nutrition plan as soon as possible to help your muscles mend more quickly. If you don’t recover properly, you’ll feel fatigued and may run the risk of injuring yourself when you return to running.

Your postmarathon nutrition goals are threefold: 1) refuel muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) stores; 2) restore fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat; 3) provide nutrients to help repair muscle damage. (Glycogen is the predominant fuel source muscles use to sustain prolonged and strenuous exercise.)

Immediately after running the marathon, replace depleted muscle glycogen by consuming carbohydrate-packed foods such as bananas, raisins, granola bars, energy bars, bagels and pita bread. Many sports drinks supply carbohydrate, too. Snacks will be available after you cross the finish line, but I also recommend packing some to keep at the bag check. That way you will be able to continue your recovery process en route to the hotel or home.

Your muscles are primed to convert carbohydrate (glucose) to glycogen the fastest within 30 to 60 minutes postrace, called the “window of opportunity.” But that doesn’t mean muscle cells don’t refuel afterwards. Given a steady stream of carbohydrate-based meals and snacks, muscles continue to refuel within 24 hours, but at a slower rate.

It’s recommended that marathoners consume 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight (0.54 grams per pound) per hour for the first four hours after finishing a marathon. For a 77-kilogram (170 pound) runner, that translates to 92 grams of carbohydrates per hour. You would need to consume one large banana, one cup of yogurt and two cups of Gatorade for a total of 96 grams carbohydrate. After four hours, resume your usual carbohydrate intake based on your daily requirements.

Many runners have a reduced appetite after running a marathon, which can make eating plenty of carbohydrates challenging. Research has found that if you consume protein (10 to 20 grams) at each snack or meal, you can consume a smaller amount of carbohydrate and get the same glycogen replacement results.

Protein is also needed to repair muscle breakdown from long distance running. Think beyond protein bars or protein shakes. For optimal recovery, your muscles want three to four times more carbohydrate than protein. Good recovery snacks and meals include a smoothie (Greek yogurt, banana, blueberries); turkey sandwich, banana and one cup of Gatorade; and 1/4 cup almonds, one pita bread, 1/4 cup hummus and one large orange. If you’re a fan of protein shakes blend in banana, berries and/or juice.

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No matter how effective your fluid-replacement plan is during the race, you will very likely be dehydrated to some degree at the end of 26.2 miles, especially if the weather is warm. Start drinking as soon as you finish the event and continue until your urine is clear and your weight is back to premarathon weight. (Weigh yourself before and after the marathon.) For every pound you lose during the course of the race, you need to drink two to three cups of water to replace it.

It may be tempting to celebrate your finish with a beer (or two), but go easy as alcohol will dehydrate you further. If you do drink a beer, drink an equal amount of water with it.

You must also replace electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) lost through sweat, minerals that help maintain fluid balance and control muscle contractions. While sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade do a good job of delivering electrolytes (and fluid) during the marathon, don’t rely on them solely afterwards.

Instead, get most of your postmarathon electrolytes from whole foods. Milk, chocolate milk, bagels, bread, pretzels, crackers, tomato juice and salted nuts all supply sodium. Potassium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, cantaloupe, bananas, dried apricots, raisins, baked potato with skin, leafy greens, tomato juice and orange juice.

A steady intake of nutritious foods will also supply a wide range of vitamins and antioxidants to repair muscle damage, fend off free radical damage from stressful activity and recover your immune system.

Since your body does most of its muscle repair while you sleep, eat a protein-rich snack before you go to bed. Greek yogurt, a handful of nuts, a protein shake or a couple of ounces of chicken will do the trick.

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Finally, don’t be too quick to lace up your running shoes after your marathon. Give yourself three to seven days to completely rest and recover. Then, ease back into light or low-intensity activity.

Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She is a regular contributor to CTV News Channel.

The 15 Best Foods to Eat After Running

Running — when combined with weightlifting — is a great way to help you burn extra calories, maintain a healthy heart, and build muscle.

Here are 5 of the best foods to eat after running when your goal is muscle gain.

6. Chocolate milk

Chocolate milk happens to be a perfect post-run drink.

It’s loaded with high-quality protein and fast-digesting carbs for muscle recovery and energy refueling.

Similarly to many commercial exercise-recovery drinks, low-fat chocolate milk has a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio (13).

One 5-week study in adolescents found that chocolate milk resulted in a 12.3% strength increase in bench press and squat exercises, compared with a carbohydrate drink (14).

Moreover, a review of 12 studies found that chocolate milk provides either similar or superior exercise-recovery benefits, compared with other popular recovery drinks (15).

7. Whey protein shake

Protein shakes have been around for decades and are the go-to choice for many people looking to build muscle.

Though there are several types of protein powder, whey protein is one of the best choices for muscle building after a run (16, 17, 18).

Your body digests and absorbs this milk-based protein quickly.

Compared with other types of protein powder, such as casein or soy, whey protein packs more of the nine essential amino acids your body needs to jumpstart the muscle-building process (19).

In a blender, mix 1–2 scoops of whey protein with water until smooth. If you want to bump up the calorie and protein content, use milk instead of water. Add some frozen fruit or nut butter for extra nutrition and flavor.

Whey protein powder is widely available in supermarkets, specialty stores, and online.

8. Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables

Chicken is a high-quality, lean protein.

A 4-ounce (112-gram) chicken breast packs 27 grams of protein, which is more than enough to start the muscle-rebuilding process after running (20).

However, this poultry can be rather bland by itself, so have a side of roasted vegetables with your grilled chicken.

Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, and asparagus are prime candidates. Add olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste for extra flavor.

9. Cottage cheese and fruit

Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein and calcium.

One cup (226 grams) of low-fat cottage cheese provides 28 grams of protein and 16% of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium (21).

Cottage cheese is also high in sodium, an electrolyte lost in sweat during exercise (22).

Top cottage cheese with fresh berries, peach slices, or melon chunks or balls for additional antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

10. Pea protein powder

If you have dietary restrictions or follow a plant-based diet, pea protein powder is an excellent alternative to milk-based powders.

Supplementing with pea protein powder offers a convenient way to increase your protein intake.

While research on the effects of pea protein on muscle repair and recovery in endurance athletes is lacking, it has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis — the process of building muscle — to a similar extent as whey protein (23)

In an 8-week study in 15 people undergoing high-intensity training 4 times per week, consuming pea protein before or after exercise produced outcomes similar to those of whey protein in regards to muscle thickness and strength (24).

To reap the benefits of pea protein, blend 1–2 scoops of the powder with water, milk, or a plant-based milk alternative until smooth.

If you want to try pea protein powder, you can find it locally or online.

Summary Seek high-quality protein sources like protein shakes or chicken and veggies to promote muscle repair and growth after running.

On Sunday around 35,000 runners took part in the 36th London Marathon. Every runner from the elite athlete to the charity fancy dress participant endured endless hours of preparation for this day in order to get round the 26.2 miles to the best of their ability.

Running a marathon is a huge physiological challenge and despite the hours of training and preparation, it is highly likely that most runners will wake up the following morning, and the morning after, and the morning after with some degree of soreness, aches and pains.

On crossing the finish line, the temptation to go straight to bed or head to the pub for a few beers and a slap up meal will be strong. But while it is important to enjoy your achievement and indulge in a treat or two, a few nutrition tips will go a long way in helping you to feel less sore and move more freely in the days after the marathon.

Break bread

Runners should try to consume some carbohydrate, ideally 50-100g within an hour of finishing the marathon in either food or drink form. This could include carbohydrate sports drinks, cereal bars, bananas or bread-based products.

This is because the restoration of muscle and liver glycogen – the carbohydrate stored in the muscle and liver that are depleted during prolonged exercise – begins as soon as exercise ceases so carbohydrates are essential to maximise this process.

The first 30-60 minutes after exercise is often referred to as the “window of opportunity” as this is when the muscle is primed to take up the carbohydrate you consume and store it.

Choose sources of carbohydrate that are quickly digested and that you know you can tolerate. Continue to consume a good source of carbohydrate such as pasta, rice or bread for three to four hours after exercise to maximise glycogen resynthesis – the replenishment of carbohydrate stores in the muscle.

Milk it

Fluid restoration is also extremely important after a marathon. Most runners will have no idea of their fluid losses over the course of the run and so the best indication of hydration status is urine colour – pale straw colour is ideal.

If you are a salty sweater – you’ll know because you’ll be able to taste it on your skin – it is essential to replace the salts that you have lost in your sweat. Adding some salt to your post exercise drink can not only help to balance those sodium levels, but it can also help with fluid retention.

Milk and dairy products have also been shown to have a lot of functional benefits during exercise recovery, so having a milkshake straight after you stop running is a great way of finishing the race. This is obviously only the case if you can stomach dairy products after prolonged exercise and have no associated intolerances.

How not to recover from a marathon. Lisa F. Young/

Milk is a source of carbohydrate, proteins, several vitamins and minerals, including sodium and also is a fluid so can aid rehydration. Research has shown that milk is a more effective rehydration solution than a carbohydrate only solution as the proteins in milk help the body to retain the fluid.

The carbohydrates and proteins in milk can facilitate the recovery of glycogen and milk proteins (in particular whey proteins) are readily used by the muscle to repair and regenerate after strenuous exercise.

We have also shown that consuming 500ml of milk (which is about two large glasses) within 30 minutes following a very hard bout of exercise can help alleviate those feelings of soreness and can actually help you to physically function better in the 24-72 hours after the exercise bout.

Bring on the beetroot

But if milk and dairy are not for you then there are several other foods than can help alleviate soreness during the recovery process.

We recently foundthat beetroot juice, which is high in both nitrates and phytonutrients – natural chemicals found in plant foods – help to reduce soreness after exercise and speed up the recovery of muscle function over 72 hours.

How this happens is still unknown, but at this point we do know that similar studies have shown that other phytonutrient rich foods such as tart cherries, blueberries and pomegranate can all have a similar effect.

Plus, these phytonutrient rich fruit and vegetables may also help protect the body from coughs and colds and other infections in the days after a marathon, when your immune system is lower after being suppressed.

The take home from this is that rehydrating and ensuring you consume a good source of carbohydrate and protein in the first 30-60 minutes after the marathon will go some way to help your body recover from the physiological strain of those 26.2 miles.

But, if all else fails and you found you made a beeline for the pub, in the days after the marathon, you cannot go wrong with a few hot baths and some good nights rest.

Run Selfie Repeat shares her personal weight loss journey and how it has helped her see a new truth about before and after photos.

In 2009, I received a phone call that changed my life. My father called to tell me that my 16-year-old brother had been in an accident and that he had passed away. I was 19 years old and going into my sophomore year of college; I found myself living my own personal nightmare. I stopped taking care of myself and six months later, I didn’t recognize the woman I saw when I looked in the mirror. I had gained over 75 pounds, my clothes stopped fitting, and I felt like I had lost control of my life. The weight gain was gradual but it felt like it happened overnight.

I was consumed by grief and insecurities about my weight. I was angry, lashing out, and I started pushing my friends and family away, so my mom stepped in. She told me that I deserved to be happy and that if I wanted to make a change, she would help me make it happen. It was like ripping off a Band­-Aid. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I’d let myself get to that point. I knew I needed help but I didn’t know where to start. So I accepted the help and decided to get my life back.

There’s no secret to weight loss. There’s no secret pill or magic exercise that will make you lose weight quickly. It just comes down to what you eat and how often you get active. I re-did my diet and ate proper portion sizes of lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains for an entire year. I dragged myself to the gym to torture myself on a machine at least 5 days a week. It wasn’t fun but a year later, I lost the weight I’d gained after my brother passed away.

Recently I received a notification on Facebook that I’d been tagged in a photo. I clicked the notification and found a picture of myself that I never knew existed. When I started gaining weight, I deleted every photo of myself because I was ashamed of the way I looked. I was convinced that people would judge me for my weight and I did everything I could to erase that part of my life. This picture was taken maybe a month after my brother passed away. While it’s not a photo of me at my heaviest, it’s a picture that I would have reached out and asked my friend to delete. Today I look at it and feel grateful that it exists.

Looking back, I wholeheartedly regret my decision to attempt to erase that time in my life. I regret spending so much time and energy caring about what others thought about my weight and I primarily regret feeling ashamed of the way I looked.

When I look at this picture, I feel a lot of things but surprisingly, embarrassed isn’t one of them. This is me at a time in my life when I was doing everything I could to simply get out of bed. I was trying to survive the unimaginable, sudden and tragic loss of my younger brother.

My issue with ‘Before and After’ photos is that they place the before photos in a context that implies that it’s unacceptable to look like what we look like in our after photos. Newsflash: Even after I lost the weight, my life didn’t magically change. I was still incredibly unhappy because I hadn’t found the one thing that helped me feel proud and empowered by my body, running.

Running helps me work towards something more motivating and rewarding than a goal weight. I don’t have the stereotypical runner’s body I was convinced I was going to acquire when I decided to run my first marathon. My thighs touch, I have love handles and I have stretch marks. My body looks nothing like the women I see in many brand’s Instagram feeds, but I can run fast AF so I feel nothing but beautiful in my US size 8/­10 frame. Running taught me that it’s not about looking a certain way, it’s about feeling a certain way. STRONG.

If you want to make a change, start running, or adopt a healthier lifestyle, go for it! I’ll be the first to stand beside you and cheer you on. But if you love the way you look and feel, then keep doing what you’re doing because you’re already living your best life. If there’s one thing running has taught me, it’s the importance of patience, persistence, and perseverance.

This isn’t a “before” and “after” picture. It’s simply me in two different stages in my life. Neither is more “beautiful” or “better” than the other, they are both simply me.

Lacing up her shoes, strapping on her GPS watch, and heading out on a long run are things 26-year-old Rebecca Grafton, the blogger behind My Girlish Whims, has come to appreciate. In January 2014, it was a different story—she weighed 246 pounds, and running was something she avoided. But that month she booked a summer vacation to Jamaica and decided she wanted to shape up. “I didn’t want to go on the trip, come back and look at pictures from my fun tropical vacation and not be able to remember how much fun I had ,” she says.

Along with a healthy, balanced diet, one major change she made was she decided to start running regularly—even though she hated it. “I was the girl in high school who huffed and puffed around the track every year in gym class when we were forced to run one mile,” she recalls. These days, her trail runs and treadmill sessions are some of the most fun parts of her new healthy lifestyle. Here’s how she got there—and lost 100 pounds in the process.

When she decided to start exercising, running was a simple (but challenging) way to start. Courtesy of Rebecca Grafton

Running was the first exercise Grafton decided to do during her weight-loss journey because it was easy to start—all she needed was a pair of running shoes and an outdoor path or treadmill. That doesn’t mean it was easy though. “I have a selfie I took after the very first workout I did after I committed to losing weight—my face is beet red and I was sticking my tongue out because I was a sweaty mess, but I was super proud because I had hopped on my treadmill and pushed myself to keep going,” says Grafton.

Grafton stuck with running about three times a week because she figured that if it was hard, it just might be working. “I remember one treadmill run I did in the beginning of my journey—I would normally get to 15 minutes and then stop and walk. I made it to 15 minutes and thought, I think I can keep going. I went a full 30 minutes without stopping. That was huge for me. It made me feel empowered—I was capable of pushing through all the huffing and puffing and jiggling.”

Her Tuesday night runs became something she looked forward to.

By the time Grafton left for her vacation in May, she’d dropped 30 pounds, and decided that she wanted to keep going. Her goal was to lose another 26 pounds. “I just decided that no matter how many times I screwed up along the way, giving up was not an option,” she says. One way she continued to stay motivated was by constantly challenging herself.

If I’m running to lose weight, isn’t it counterproductive to eat before and after workouts?

“If I’m running to lose weight, isn’t it counterproductive to eat before and after my workouts? I don’t want to undo the work I just did.”

A pattern of eating in which you eat balance meals or snacks every 4-5 hours naturally supports exercise performance, even endurance running, as well as weight loss. So, if you are already eating three meals and perhaps one or two snacks every day, it is counterproductive to add meals and snacks simply because you are exercising. However, if you tend to skips meals or go hours without eating, then you may need to consider eating more frequently. Depending on the length of your runs, eating more frequently may also be specifically recommended to improve running performance.

Running Performance and Nutrient Timing

Runs that are longer than 90 minutes are typically considered exhaustive, meaning that to provide energy for the run, you exhaust muscle carbohydrate stores. In these cases, carbohydrate consumption is often recommended prior to and immediately following exercise, so you are able to maintain a regular exercise schedule and to improve running performance. This is called nutrient timing; you are providing the appropriate nutrient at the ideal time to support muscle function and recovery.

Runs shorter than 90 minutes do not require precise nutrient timing, but you still have to consider eating regularly throughout the day, even when you are trying to lose weight, which means you will eat surrounding the workout in order to eat well throughout the day. The difference is that you don’t need to focus on a specific nutrient or time frame surrounding the workout.

Jessie the Jogger

For example, Jessie is running 30-45 minutes most days before heading to work. Jessie wakes at 5:45 am and hits the ground running. By the time Jessie finishes running and showering, it is 8 am. To get to the office by 8:30 am Jessie grabs a coffee and skips breakfast. Starving at 9:15 am Jessie can’t resist the bagels provided during morning meetings. Jessie is trying to lose weight, but it is hard to be consistent with exercise and eating habits.

My recommendations are to make time for breakfast and eat before getting into the shower. Not only will breakfast following morning runs support a consistent running schedule, but Jessie will also be more likely to resist processed foods available around the office.

Casey the Marathoner

Casey is training for a marathon and runs in the evenings. Monday and Wednesday are hard 60-minute runs and Thursday is a moderate 105-minute run. Casey can really push it during hard runs on Monday and Wednesday but by Thursday is struggling to finish the longer run. Casey is also trying to eat well throughout the day. Lunch is at 11 am and Casey brings a packet of nuts and an apple for an afternoon snack. Casey leaves work around 5:30 pm to run and then gets home to prepare dinner. Casey eats dinner at 7:30 or 8 pm, and is hungry, but knows to avoid eating too much before bed. Despite trying to limit portions, Casey is overfull at bedtime and doesn’t sleep well.

Hard runs and inappropriate nutrient timing may be depleting carbohydrate stores over the week so that by Thursday Casey’s physical and mental energy is drained. My recommendations are to pack a more substantial mini-meal to eat between lunch and running, and to eat within 1 hour after running. This would allow for more complete pre- and post-workout meals, and provide more time between dinner and bedtime. Casey’s meal times could be lunch at 11 am, mini-meal at 4 pm and dinner at 7 or 7:30 pm.

Bottom Line

Running improves insulin function, stress management and immune function and reduces inflammation and food cravings. Running is not simply a mechanism to burn calories. It is for these reasons that food choices surrounding exercise should be very high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Eating high quality foods surrounding runs will work synergistically with the metabolic affects of running and is definitely not undoing the benefit of a run. Be practical and plan meals surrounding exercise to support consistent running and eating habits.

Please remember that the information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical or nutritional advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this article.

Hana A. Feeney, MS, RD is an open-minded, progressive dietitian that blends evidence based nutritional science with the principals of intuitive eating and cutting-edge functional medicine. Hana specializes in sport nutrition, digestive health, fertility, hormonal health and eating disorders. Visit www.NourishingRestuls.com to explore, read, cook and reach out!

Should You Eat Carbs After an Evening Run?

Everybody is talking about carbohydrates, or carbs, as they are commonly called. Your body requires carbs to provide it with energy and it is good at using them efficiently. Fat, on the other hand, always requires plenty of oxygen. Plus, it takes twice as long for fat to provide the same amount of energy as carbohydrates. That is why we have to reduce our pace to burn fat while running, so that our body can keep up with the oxidation process and doesn’t get exhausted. You’ll notice that you’re in the fat-burning zone when your breathing slows down. If your breathing is fast and shallow, you’re body is not burning the fat it could.

This is also when it starts to hurt. You might catch yourself thinking that the couch looks awful comfy right now. Or the question “What the hell am I doing?” keeps popping into your head. But once you have conquered these mental hurdles, things will start to get easier.

Your body stores carbs in the form of glycogen in your liver and muscles. They are important energy reserves — especially for ambitious runners. The more glycogen you have stored in your muscles, the better and longer they can perform.

In general, the following nutrient ratio is recommended for endurance athletes:

Carbohydrates 55-65%
Protein 10-15%
Fat 25-30%

Better, faster, farther

Carbs are your muscles’ fuel. The macronutrient is very important for runners looking to enhance their performance (for instance, for a marathon) – not only before workouts, but also after you finish running. If you refill your glycogen stores right after a run, your body will recover faster. This helps your body adapt better to a new or harder workout and builds up your immune system faster again after your training. The more often or intensely you train, the more important a diet rich in carbohydrates is for your recovery.

The right window of opportunity

The best time for your body to replenish its glycogen stores is within the first 30 minutes after your workout. Consume about 0.5 g of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight. For a 65 kg woman this should be about 30 g of carbohydrates.

30 g of carbohydrates can be in the form of:

  • one medium banana
  • 5 dates
  • 1 slice of bread with jam
  • 40 g of granola with 200 ml of cow’s milk

These carbohydrates (simple carbs) are easy to digest, and the body absorbs them quickly. After 30 minutes, the window starts to gradually close, and your body is no longer able to absorb carbs as efficiently and quickly.

Keep in mind:

You don’t need to eat carbohydrates after a short run (5 to 10 km), because the glycogen stores have not been depleted.

The evening meal after your run

An hour after your run, you should eat a full meal with carbs, protein and fat. To be more exact, your meal should contain a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio. Carbs are still important at this point, but your body also needs protein to build muscles. Too much of this macronutrient, however, can interfere with efficient absorption of carbohydrates and disturb your body’s fluid balance.

Good post-run meals are loaded sweet potato skins, chickpea avocado salad, or vegetarian one pot pasta.

If you want to lose weight: it’s the kind of carbs that counts

Runners whose top priority is to lose weight should try to avoid eating too many carbs. This applies particularly to simple carbohydrates. Complex carbs are necessary as part of a balanced diet, as we shall see below. Short endurance runs (like 5K runs) do not deplete our glycogen stores – so you don’t need to replenish them during your run (for example, with isotonic sports drinks) or right after the run. The best thing to drink after short runs is water.

Eat a mix of complex carbohydrates and protein, as described above one to two hours after your run. But at the end of the day, if you are looking to lose weight, what matters is a negative energy balance (approx. 500 calories/day). This means you should burn more calories than you consume.

Complex carbohydrates = the good carbohydrates?

Runners looking to lose weight need to pay attention to what they eat, as well as their training. The best thing for you to eat is complex carbohydrates (along with high quality protein and healthy fats). These not only keep you feeling full longer, but they provide you with plenty of additional important minerals and vitamins for your metabolism and immune system. Complex carbohydrates are found, for instance, in whole-grain products (like pasta and bread) and brown rice. Whole-grain foods include all the original parts (bran, germ, and endosperm) as well as all their nutrients. Simple carbohydrates are obtained by removing the outside and only keeping the endosperm. Other foods containing complex carbohydrates are potatoes with the skin on them, legumes, and vegetables.

Where are different types of carbohydrates found?

Complex carbohydrates

take longer to digest and provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and fiber that boost your metabolism and strengthen your immune system:

  • Whole-grains and products incl. pasta, bread, and rolls
  • Potatoes with the skin on them
  • Brown rice
  • Beans, lentils and peas
  • Vegetables, 100% vegetable juice
  • Fruit

Simple carbohydrates

are a quick source of energy because they are digested rapidly. They cause your blood sugar and your insulin levels to rise:

  • pastry flour and products, cakes, cookies, bread, and rolls
  • white pasta
  • soft drinks
  • sugar and sweets
  • alcohol

Do you need carbs after an evening run?

Yes and no. A high-carb snack will refill empty glycogen stores within the first 30 minutes after a long run (over 10 km). The ideal ratio of carbs to protein in a post-run meal is 3:1 for optimal recovery.

***

Here’s What to Eat After Running and Why

Jan 06, 2020 Author: Edward Cambro

What to eat after a run–that is the question.

After a run, your muscles ache, you’re breathless, and your body desires something to replenish its reserves. Anyone’s who has been through the agony knows that first drink of water or that first bite of food after a workout is as good as any runner’s high. It’s tempting to convince yourself that you earned yourself the right to eat anything you want–earned meals are the best meals after all.

I am sorry to tell you, however, that steak will not be on the menu for your post-run meals. Even a steak can be healthy for you at the right size, but you can’t have it with any kind of buttery sauce.

Dieting is an important factor in a runner’s life. You don’t want to run for an hour every day, exhausting yourself and pushing your limits just to throw it all away immediately by eating a pound of chocolate-dipped bacon topped with fried chicken skin and sea salt. A proper diet will replenish your reserves without losing whatever gains you made during the run.

To outsiders, however, dieting has a certain stigma. Most people see dieting as a primary reason not to get in shape. Nobody likes abnegation or eating bland or awful-tasting foods.

But things change, and health food is a great example of things changing for the better. Here, we’re going to give you meals to bolster your resolve, fill your stomach, and even satisfy.

You’ll probably still miss having a porterhouse, though. Who wouldn’t?

What to Eat Before a Run

Let’s not put the cart before the horse. There are misconceptions about eating before a run, especially if you’re running in the morning before going to work. Runners will often skip eating completely and have lunch be their first meal of the day. That’s a mistake. The body will take this lack of food as a potential threat. When you eat lunch, then, the body will hold on to more of it, thinking that it needs to do more with less. It will make weight loss more difficult and may negate the work you did in your early morning run.

That said, running on an empty stomach is a bad idea as well. The body needs to have reserves to burn. It has to draw resources and strength from something. You’ll never get far on an empty stomach.

However, like any and all dieting, it’s about portion control.

You’ll want to carb up before a run while being mindful not to overdo it and accidentally carbo-load. Protein-centric foods like peanut butter, eggs, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese are helpful as well. Fruits and vegetables are evergreen foods for dieting and exercise. Think about a banana or fruit smoothie. Maybe a parfait with low-fat milk. You can even have half a muffin (preferably whole wheat). Give yourself about 45 minutes to digest before going out on your run.

Of course, if you’re running later in the day, you might end up having a larger meal beforehand. In the case of larger meals, you’ll want to wait 2 or 3 hours before running to allow for digestion and for your body to appropriately apply the nutrients you’ve provided it.

Hydration After Running

Hydration is both overlooked and misunderstood, even by runners. Despite the fact our bodies are made primarily of water, we are in constant need of more water to recharge ourselves and fuel our activities throughout the day.

It’s also important to hydrate even when we aren’t thirsty. This does not include drinking vast quantities of coffee, despite water being an important element to that otherwise perfect substance. Of course, it is incumbent on runners to drink more water than non-runners throughout the day.

It is suggested that runners drink between 8 and 16 oz of water about an hour before a run. Some even drink another 4 oz right before setting foot to pavement. Drinking water during the run isn’t a bad idea either.

You might also be concerned about depleted electrolytes. Gatorades ads over the last 25 years have not only been effective, but they’ve also made it so that we can all spell the word correctly. Contrary to popular belief, most runners do not usually have to worry about their electrolyte levels. Generally, it’s long-distance runners who should worry about their electrolyte levels. The occasional Gatorade or electrolyte tablets will help you out.

Finally, remember to rehydrate as quickly as possible once the run is over. Winter runs will force you to expend more oxygen and apply more effort. Summer runs will dehydrate you quickly. Drink. Your. Water.

For more on hydration, check out the video below.

What to Eat After Running For Immediate Consumption

As we said, it’s incredibly important to immediately replenish yourself after a run. Especially during the summer, you’ll work up an appetite. Thankfully, you have options other than just water, Nuun tablets, and Gatorade in that case. If you’re on the go even after your run (perhaps back to your place to get ready for work), you may not have enough time to properly prepare a meal. As we mentioned before almond or peanut butter, eggs, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese are quick, helpful ways of boosting you back up. Think about fruits like apples and bananas or quick snacks like oats, cereal, oatmeal, trail mix (with more fruits than nuts), walnuts or cashews, and baby carrots or pita with hummus.

Oatmeal is particularly useful. It provides a great combination of protein and carbohydrates; also high in fiber and will keep you regular. However, many people drown it in syrup. All that sugar is too costly on the body. Prepare the oatmeal as is and use fruit to garnish it and give it flavor. A little bit of cinnamon goes a long way, as well.

For those of you who need to drive to work and don’t have two hands available, consider a liquid meal. No, we don’t mean the old vodka-in-the-morning-coffee trick, fun as that is. Instead, you can have 12 ounces of chocolate milk, a protein shake, or a fruit smoothie. Of course, you have to be careful of the size of those smoothies. Overdoing it can be dangerous. That’s probably why your mind immediately went to daytime drinking when we mentioned “liquid meals.” Anyway, see below for some smoothie recipes.

A Few Smoothie Recipes

Even with healthy food, there is a necessary degree of moderation. Just because fruits are healthy, it doesn’t mean you should load up on them. Replenishing your body means replacing what was lost, not undoing your work. You’ll notice that the examples usually only call for, say, 1 banana. You can reasonably add in a second (especially if you want to flavor-bash like apples and oranges, bananas and blueberries, etc.), but be watchful of any noticeable weight gain or a loss of physical achievements over time.

The Blueberry Blast: Since they are rather tart, blueberries usually need to be served with something; they’re not a standalone fruit. Here, the tart blueberry is paired with the sweet peach. Never a bad idea. Especially if, on a cheat day, you can track down a blueberry peach pie. It’s wonderful.

  • Several ice cubes
  • 1 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen peaches
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 dozen raw almonds
  • ¼ cup of milk (the type of milk is up to you; feel free to add more milk depending on your preferred smoothie consistency)

The Elvis Presley: Sadly, nothing here is fried, so we can’t guarantee the King would approve, but it’s still a damn fine smoothie.

  • Several ice cubes
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (add a little more depending on your preferred consistency and taste)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup of milk (the type of milk is up to you; feel free to add more milk depending on your preferred smoothie consistency)

The American Dream: No, this is not a reference to Dusty Rhodes. At least not directly.

  • Several ice cubes
  • 1 apple (peeling is optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
  • ½ cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup of milk or water

Pineapple Passion: Runner’s World highly recommends this recipe. They say it’s like “drinking ice cream.” Just don’t have it with pizza. They don’t go together.

  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 1 cup of frozen pineapple
  • Blend until the consistency is smooth

Green Apple Coconut Cantaloupe Smoothie: Want to get a little weird? This recipe from GreenBlender will do it for you. It mixes fruits, vegetables and camu camu, which sounds like a small island in the South Pacific where rich people vacation.

  • Several ice cubes
  • 1 cup of peeled cantaloupe
  • 1 pear
  • 1.5 ounces of baby spinach
  • ½ tablespoon of camu camu
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut flakes
  • 1 cup of coconut water

The Green Machine Smoothie: Dick’s Sporting Goods has lauded this smoothie as a perfect recipe for runners.

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 15-20 raw almonds
  • 2-3 cups chopped kale (be careful with kale; there have been news reports lately about tainted supplies)
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1-2 cups of mixed frozen berries

Of course, the Internet abounds in all types of smoothie recipes, including many that make use of avocados, dark chocolate, and hemp seeds. I love hemp. Well, for certain things. Anyway, if you have enough time to prepare a meal and looking to have a heartier post-run meal, we have you covered.

What Are Good Snacks to Eat After Running

Some of the quick foods we mentioned before–oats, trail mix, hummus and the like–can also be a fun midday snack when you’re feeling peckish. You can also have a granola bar, salted pretzels, or a good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Carbs and Proteins

In general, you’ll want to keep a 2:1 carb to protein ratio for your post-run meals. And, of course, as we mentioned earlier, even though carbs are good, be careful not to carbo-load. Turkey sandwiches on whole wheat or white bread toast is a great way to build yourself back up again.

Pasta and meatballs too (preferably whole wheat pasta). A baked potato can be good for you too, but keep it plain. No salt, cheese, butter, or anything else that will make it taste good.

If you’re in New York, pick up a bagel. If you’re not in New York, I’m sorry to tell you that you never had a real bagel before. That said, whatever you call a bagel does technically count. Try that.

Baked and grilled dark-meat chicken make for healthy choices. So does seafood like salmon. Have any of these with a side of rice or quinoa and you’re eating heartily but not dangerously.

As for red meat, well, it’s still possible. A burger for dinner won’t kill you but understand portion control. When it comes to meats (including chicken and seafood), you’ll want to have a serving of roughly 3 ounces (about the size of your palm). In the case of red meat–burgers, steaks, etc.–make sure the cut is as lean as possible.

A Few Quick Recipes

Beef, chicken and seafood will fill you up, even in the 3 ounces level, especially if you have some greens or a side of rice or quinoa to go with it. We’re going to give you a small sampling of potential meals that are both delicious and healthy. Vegetarian options are also included!

Slow-Cooked Beef Burritos with Green Chiles: This recipe, found on TasteOfHome.com, is spicy, delicious, but admittedly time-consuming. If you aren’t into the time-intensive slow-cooking method, you can exchange it for your preferred red meat variation.

Baked Salmon in Foil: This extremely easy dinner is suggested by WellPlated.com. Your salmon is baked in aluminum foil to lock in the garnished flavors of lemon, rosemary, butter, or any of your preferred spices. The entire meal takes all of 10 minutes to prepare.

Baked Chicken Parmesan: Yes, Italian food is traditionally very heavy. It’s delicious, but it can do damage. This recipe from Primaverakitchen.com takes the traditional recipes and lightens it up a bit. Yes, you’re still getting chicken parm, but it’s easier on your health.

Butternut Squash and Pea Risotto with Parmesan and Pine Nuts: This is the first of our 3 vegetarian options. Let it not be said that I’m unfair. This recipe from myfitnesspal is quite good and is quickly prepared, but it does have a long ingredient list. It is carbohydrate heavy without being overwhelming and can be easily used as a pre- or post-workout meal.

Black Bean and Vegetable Curry with Almonds: Also from myfitnesspal, this dish perfectly strikes the carb and protein balance you’ll need to regain your strength after a run and help those muscles recover. While also ingredient-heavy, this dinner will only take about 10 minutes to cook once you have everything together.

Loaded Vegetarian Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: SassySpoon’s stuffed sweet potato almost looks like something from Outback Steakhouse. It also might take a little while to prepare (about 20 minutes, all told). However, you are going to experience a great array of taste. The ingredients include cilantro, smoked paprika, and sour cream. You won’t be bored here.

Of course, runner’s lives get hectic. While we’re sure the trail mix is the path of least resistance, you can still have elegant meals despite balancing work, running, and diet. We suggest one big grocery shopping run a week and prepare as much as possible over the weekend before your next cycle of runs begins. Tupperware is a lifesaver.

We’re also hoping that you see that despite the necessity of eating healthy you don’t have to eat blandly. As we said before, the internet abounds in all sorts of recipes and variations to keep you healthy and satisfied.

Good luck!

Sources

  1. Business Insider
  2. US News
  3. Runners World
  4. My Vega
  5. News 18
  6. Activ
  7. Run Eat Repeat
  8. Greatist
  9. Dicks Sporting Goods
  10. Runners World, Smoothie Recipes
  11. Green Blender
  12. Taste of Home
  13. Well Plated
  14. Primavera Kitchen
  15. My Fitness Pal
  16. A Sassy Spoon

Question 1:

When should I be eating after a run to maximise recovery?

James says:
The sooner the better – ideally within 30 minutes after running as your body needs essential nutrients to kick start the growth and repair process after a hard training session.

Question 2:


Is protein or carbohydrate more important for recovery?

James says:

Both are critical for full recovery after training. Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source for high intensity work, and are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. As the body can only store a certain amount of carbohydrate, once reduced through a harder training session these stores need to be replaced before your next workout.
Protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue and after hard training this remodelling can continue for over 24 hours. Starting with the post-training snack, regular protein intake helps to provide the building blocks (amino acids), for ongoing muscle growth and repair.
20g of protein is the magic number that you need to hit to kick-start the recovery process after training (slightly more for bigger athletes and less for smaller). These recipes will help you reach this target:

Question 3:

If you’re watching your weight, how do you balance eating for recovery with continued weight loss? How much should you eat?

James says:

Many marathon runners are hoping to get a bit fitter and a little lighter. It is possible to properly recover after exercise while encouraging healthy weight loss – it’s just about getting the balance right.

The key here is matching fuel intake to your training volume. This will mean eating more carbohydrate on days with harder training sessions. Recovery days require fewer carbohydrates, with more of a focus on lean protein and healthy fats.

Read more about what to eat on rest & easy training days and heavy training days.

When managing your weight, try to get most of your carbohydrates from low-GI foods at mealtimes, rather than lots of higher GI snacks. These will also keep your feeling fuller for longer.
Where possible, eat meals as part of your recovery plan following your run, instead of adding in extra recovery snacks, which increase your total energy (calorie) intake for the day. This may take more planning to coincide runs with mealtimes but will help you reach your goals.

Question 4:


How long after running a marathon would it be sensible to start training again?

James says:

It is important to listen to your body on this one. Physiologically, your body can be ready to start training after a few days, especially as fitness levels are often greatly improved with endurance training. However, don’t underestimate the fatigue you may experience over the following week. It is usually advisable for runners to have a break of a week to get a well earned physical, and psychological break from training, before lacing up the trainers again.

Question 5:

What are the key components for a post-marathon recovery plan?


James says:

When you think recovery, think of ‘The Four R’s’:

  • Rest – Get a good night’s sleep – this is when most of your muscle repair will occur.
  • Rehydrate – Replace fluid losses by drinking at regular intervals throughout the day.
  • Repair – Eat 20g of protein soon after exercise to kick start muscle repair.
  • Refuel – Eat carbohydrates to help restore energy – a minimum of 1g per kilogram bodyweight is a good general guide.

Now you know what to eat after your run, get the rest of your training nutrition right:
What to eat before your run
What to eat during your run

This article was last updated on 25 March 2019.

James Collins is recognised as a leading Performance Nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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Before and after running

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