Whether you are training for a 5k or a marathon, nutrition matters. After a long or strenuous run, it’s essential to replenish your muscles with the needed nutrients and fluids they lost during exercise. The goal is to replace lost fluids, carbohydrates (glycogen, which is your energy source during exercise) and proteins in order to speed up recovery time and be ready for the next workout.
Restoring fluids is the first priority post-run. Drink water or a sport drink with electrolytes (such as Gatorade or water with a Nuun tablet). Next, focus on your nutrition. Within 30-45 minutes of your run, consume a combination of carbohydrates and protein. This is the window when your muscles replace their power supply the fastest and will help prevent the feeling of post-run starvation. Ideally, you want to consume a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio: four grams of carbohydrate for every one gram of protein. How glycogen, a molecule that turns into energy, synthesizes really depends on the type of carbohydrate you’re eating: the closer it is to its simplest form, glucose, the easier it will be to break down and use as fuel. Thus, high glycemic index foods like potatoes, whole wheat pastas or breads, and rice refuel muscles better than fructose. It’s important to consume protein as well because it enhances both glycogen replacement and muscle reparation in the initial hours after exercise. Below are lists with sources of protein, our favorite meal options, and quick ideas to restore carbs and proteins.
Lean sources of protein and grams per serving:
- 3oz chicken breast 21 g
- 3oz salmon 21 g
- 3oz lean beef 21 g
- 3oz of turkey breast 21 g
- 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese 14 g
- 4oz fat free Greek yogurt 14 g
- 1 large egg 6 g
Best post-run foods:
- Quinoa salad (try our Mexican Quinoa Salad)
- Turkey or chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat pasta (or rice) with sauce and lean meat
- Salad with lean meat or fish
- Scrambled eggs or an omelet with whole wheat toast
- Whole wheat toast with avocado & turkey slices
If you can’t prepare something right after a run, here are a few good options for immediate nutrient replacement (aim to eat within an hour of eating this snack):
- A protein shake (made with milk or water)
- 6oz container of Greek yogurt
- Apple or banana with peanut or almond butter
- Hummus and carrots
And finally, after restocking all of your lost nutrients, you come to the most important part of a long run - putting your feet up, relaxing and relishing in your great training efforts and optimal recovery!