The best foods to eat after a run
Whether youʼre a beginner, intermediate or advanced runner, the right food can make a big impact on your performance.
Eating after a run is essential for kickstarting the growth and repair process. But what you eat is just as or even more important.
A good post-run meal helps you:
- Replenish the glycogen stores in your liver and muscles
- Repair micro-tears in your muscles to speed up recovery
- Replace electrolytes and minerals lost through sweat
You want to ensure you are getting back anything lost through sweat, and speed up the recovery process. This is where rehydration is critical, as its only when youʼre hydrated that you best convert carbohydrate to glycogen.
Carbs or protein?
Ideally both. After a run itʼs important to get a good mixture of carbohydrates and protein to help you recover properly. Carbohydrates are your bodyʼs main source of energy so this will have been used most to fuel any high-intensity exercise, so itʼs important to replenish this store. Protein is just as critical as it provides the body with amino acids to rebuild muscle – which will make you stronger and faster. However, too much protein can slow carbohydrate absorption so itʼs important to try and keep a balance, but this can depend on your goals and preferences.
How much to eat after a run?
Ideally, it should be roughly three to four servings of carbohydrates for every serving of protein. When it comes to how much protein you need, experts recommend having 15-20g of protein after a tough run. If you want to be even more accurate, try to eat 0.14 grams of protein for every pound of your body weight. After short runs, you will only need half this, with 1.2 grams of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight and then aim for 1.2 grams of carbs and 0.4 grams of protein at each meal.
When to eat after a run?
Ideally within half an hour. During this window of time, your muscles will be more receptive to protein and better at refuelling on glycogen. Eating immediately doesn't work for everyone though, and it isnʼt essential. Your body will take more than 24 hours to fully recover, so as long as you try to ingest something as soon as you can post-run, and snack regularly throughout the rest of the day, all wonʼt be lost.
To get the most out of any exercise, a well-rounded diet is essential. Where possible try to stick to natural foods.
If you want to satisfy cravings for something sweet then fruit is an excellent choice. Avocado, bananas, pears and watermelon are particularly beneficial after a run, for different reasons. Watermelon, for example, contains lycopene which helps reduce muscle pain. Kiwis, on the other hand, are full of potassium and magnesium, as well as antioxidants.
- Mixed nuts
A handful of nuts can help start the recovery process with a healthy blend of protein and fat, as well as some calcium and zinc to help boost bone health.
- Chicken or salmon
Chicken breast is ideal because it is a lean protein, with low-levels of saturated fat and a good amount of omega-6 fatty acids. Itʼs nutritious and, because itʼs a lean protein source, it can help you lose weight and maintain muscle. Salmon is often described as a superfood, is another great lean protein source and full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help with your heart and blood pressure, as well as reducing inflammation.
- Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes (such as chickpea, lentils or edamame) are healthy for your gut bacteria and can also reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Theyʼre also packed with protein for a plant based option, and are full of fibre too.
Eggs offer a very healthy mix of protein and healthy fats. They also contain all nine amino acids which means they are a complete protein source, making them great for any post-workout session.
- Greek yoghurt
Greek yoghurt is particularly beneficial after a run because it packs a lot of protein and is a source of calcium too.
Beetroot have lots of nutrients and very few calories. They have been linked to helping with brain health, inflammation and blood pressure. They're also reported to increase blood and and oxygen flow to muscles making them ideal for after a run, and potentially helps to boost performance when consumed before a run too.
Foods that contain quercetin such as broccoli, onions, apples and berries, have also been found to reduce inflammation.
If you want to help your body recovery and develop after a run, which in turn helps to improve your performance, then you're spoilt for choice with foods that make a significant difference. Choose the ones that suit you and let us know what helps.