Congratulations! You've just completed a run, whether it was a leisurely jog or an intense training session. But before you kick back and relax, don't forget about the crucial step that comes after the finish line: refuelling your body with the right nutrients.
What you eat after a run can significantly impact your recovery, muscle repair, how you adapt to your training, and overall performance of subsequent sessions.
In this blog, we'll dive into the world of post-run nutrition, exploring why it's important and how you can craft an effective recovery plan to execute after every run.
Why should I have a good post-run nutrition plan?
Imagine your body as a high-performance car. After a drive, it needs fuel and maintenance to ensure it runs smoothly the next time you hit the road. Similarly, after a run, your body craves the right nutrients to replenish glycogen stores, repair damaged muscle tissue, and kickstart the recovery process.
Neglecting post-run nutrition could leave you feeling fatigued, hamper your progress, and increase the risk of injury.
What nutrients does your body need after running?
Carbohydrates: Carbs are your body's primary energy source, and they take the centre stage in your post-run nutrition. Consuming a mix of complex and simple carbohydrates helps replenish glycogen stores that were depleted during your run. Shoot for a carbohydrate-rich meal within 30 to 60 minutes after your run to optimise glycogen replenishment.
Protein: Proteins are the building blocks for muscle repair and growth. Including protein in your post-run meal helps your body recover and adapt to the stress you've put it through. Aim for a balance of lean protein sources like chicken, fish, beans, or tofu to aid in muscle recovery after running.
- Fluids: Hydration is key to recovery. Replenish the fluids you lost through sweat to prevent dehydration. Water is your best friend, but if your run was particularly intense or long, consider adding electrolyte-rich drinks to restore the balance of sodium, potassium, and other essential minerals.
How much should I eat after my run?
First of all, whether you have been out for a short but hard run, a nice social jog with a friend, or tackled a half marathon and beyond, how much fluid and protein you need to consume immediately after your run stays the same.
For protein, aim to have about 15 to 25g in your post-run meal. And then include at least 500 ml of water with electrolytes to help start to replace the fluid lost through sweat. Keep in mind that how much fluid you need to replace will depend on how much you sweat.
For shorter or easier runs (usually less than 1 hour) you should aim to eat 1.2g of carbs per kg of body weight within the first 30 to 60 minutes. This quick intake of carbohydrates helps replenish glycogen stores in your muscles, ensuring you have the energy you need for your next workout.
When you’ve run for longer or harder the same applies; eat 1.2g of carbs per kg of body weight within the first 30 to 60 minutes. But make sure you also repeat this again at your next meal, also including 15-25g of protein too.
Adding protein to each meal and snack gives you more bang for your recovery too, as the combination of protein and carbs leads to more efficient replenishment of glycogen stores.
Crafting your perfect post-run nutrition strategy
Now we know what your body needs after running, let’s put that into action. Of course, the exact amount that you need to eat will depend on how hard and how long your run was, as well as your current fitness level. But for most people this means that your post-run nutrition should have a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein to optimise refuelling and recovery. Here are some simple ideas to help you achieve this:
Simple simon: Styrkr BAR50 and a whey protein shake, giving you a bolt of simple carbs and easily-digestible protein to kick-start your recovery.
Protein-packed smoothie: Blend together some Greek yoghurt, mixed berries, a scoop of protein powder, and a splash of almond milk for a refreshing and protein-rich recovery drink.
Chocolate milk: A popular recovery drink for athletes, it combines the essential nutrients of carbohydrates and protein in an easily accessible and delicious package. Chocolate milk provides an ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio (usually a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein) and contains other valuable nutrients like calcium and electrolytes.
Whole grain delight: A hearty bowl of oatmeal topped with bananas and a drizzle of honey provides the ideal combo of complex carbs and natural sugars to refuel and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Quinoa and veggie power plate: Mix cooked quinoa with a variety of colourful veggies like bell peppers, spinach, and cherry tomatoes. Add grilled chicken or chickpeas for a satisfying protein punch.
Granola yoghurt bowl: Greek yoghurt, chopped banana, a handful of blueberries, a few tablespoons of granola, and finished with a drizzle of honey or syrup – all in a bowl to create a tasty and nutrient-dense recovery snack.
- Avo and eggs on toast: Eggs are packed with protein – and particularly leucine, the amino acid that triggers building of new proteins in muscle after exercise. Whether you like them poached, boiled or scrambled, eggs with avocado (which is an excellent source of healthy fats) on wholemeal toast makes a fast and easy post-run meal.
Remember, what to eat after a run matters
In the grand scheme of your training regimen, post-run nutrition plays a pivotal role in your success as an athlete. Whether you're a seasoned marathon runner or just starting on your fitness journey, giving your body the right nutrients after each run can accelerate your progress and improve your overall performance. Crafting a recovery meal plan that includes a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fluids is the key to ensuring that your body bounces back stronger after each run.
So, the next time you lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement, remember that what you eat after a run is just as important as the run itself.
Related: How long to wait after eating to run