What to Eat after Running (All you need to Know)

What to Eat After a Run

After a good run, the body experiences dehydration and fatigue.

It is important to understand that a good training schedule not only about running but also includes what you’re eating after the run.

The body needs fuel to recover. Considering the stress one goes through, proper diet and adequate hydration go a long way to restore the body after a run.

Why is it important to focus on what to eat?

After a run, the body has a depletion of glycogen as well as microwear and tear in muscles. There is also a loss of salt and minerals such as sodium and potassium.

The goal is to replace lost fluids, carbohydrates (glycogen which is used by the body during running) and protein in order to speed up recovery time (protein helps repair damage to the muscles)

Eating essential amino acids post exercise (immediately to within three hours) have shown to stimulate a great increase in muscle protein synthesis. Addition of carbohydrates has shown to stimulate an even greater level of protein synthesis.

It was also found that a combination of carbohydrates and proteins and fat (CHO+PRO+ FAT) is more effective in the restoration of muscle glycogen.

According to a study done by John L Ivy, adding protein to carbohydrate supplementation not only promotes recovery of muscle glycogen but also corrects muscle damage.

This is because of the ability of carbohydrates and proteins to act together on insulin secretion.

In conclusion, a good diet will ensure your muscles get stronger and give a consistently good performance.

Skipping a meal post run will lead to lethargy, loss of electrolytes, fatigue, aches, pains, muscle cramps and can even lead to sickness and injury.

Apart from the physical and physiological benefits, eating delicious food also gives a yummy reason to run and will keep you motivated!

When and how much to eat?

Studies have shown that consumption of carbohydrates  (8-10 gms /per kg/per day) within 30 minutes have been shown to stimulate muscle glycogen resynthesis. This is because in the 30-minute window frame the muscle is greatly sensitive to insulin.

Eating within this time frame will also stop inflammation in its tracks.

Also, adding Proteins ( 0.2-0.5 gms/per kg / per day) to carbohydrates at a ratio of 4:1 may further enhance glycogen resynthesis.

According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the timing of the energy intake and the ratio of certain ingested macronutrients are most likely the attributes which allow for enhanced recovery and tissue repair, good muscle protein synthesis, and improved mood states.

It has been demonstrated that delaying eating carbohydrates by as little as two hours can reduce the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis by 50 percent.

Additionally, there are reports stating that maximum glycogen levels can be restored within 24 hours if optimal levels of carbohydrates are available (8gms/kg/day) and the degree of glycogen depletion is not too severe.

According to the European Journal of Sports Science, maximal muscle glycogen resynthesis rates can be achieved by ingesting carbohydrates at the rate of 1.2g/kg/hr in intervals for up to five hours.

It is very important to eat protein after a run as it provides a building block for muscle mass. To maximize muscle growth and development, you need to eat 20-30 gms of high-quality lean protein after training and every four hours that one is awake.

According to nutritionist James Collins, 20 gms protein is the magic number that will start the recovery process after training. According to him, we should focus on fewer carbohydrates and more lean proteins on recovery days.

What to Eat After a Run?

Before we begin eating, start by rehydrating yourself with electrolyte enriched water. Either put a dispersible electrolyte sachet or tablet or drink coconut water.

Remember to start rehydrating immediately after getting back especially in summers as heat can make us lose more fluids. A more popular choice among runners is a sports drink. It serves the purpose of replenishing fluids as well as replacing salts lost through sweat.

The best fluid and solid combination would be a banana shake or chocolate milkshake. This is a complete diet providing a good amount of fluid as well as carbs and proteins. Aim for a 4:1 ratio of carbs and protein.

Adding turmeric in your milkshake will give an added antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.

Have a fresh fruit like banana or orange or apple or any fruit of your choice. Fruits contain antioxidants which will stop inflammation in its tracks. Banana helps to keep the electrolyte balance after a run. Oranges help to fight muscle damage and the oxidative stress the body experiences after a run.

Banana is a complete package of good vitamins, minerals specifically potassium and dietary fibers. It can be eaten as banana pancakes which will include carbohydrates.

Watermelons and melons can be eaten as a whole or in a salad in combination with other fruits. Watermelon is a nutrient dense food. It contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Melon contains fibers, vitamins, beta carotenes and powerful antioxidant zeaxanthin which plays a protective role in eye health. With its high water and electrolyte content, it is amazing food to have after running especially in hot summers. It has 95 percent vitamin C.

Pineapples should be eaten fresh and not canned (canning process destroys a lot of bromelains). It contains bromelains which are anti-inflammatory and can reduce swelling, tenderness, and pain.

For a combination of minerals and fluids, whip up fresh homemade juices and smoothies. Make smoothies from fruits like bananas and mangoes combined with yogurt or milk. Add in ginger, turmeric or cinnamon to smoothies. All of them have excellent properties which reduce muscle soreness. Turmeric also contains curcumin, a bone-boosting flavonoid. It can also be added to curries and eaten post running.

According to the journal of the international society of sports nutrition, cherry juice helps to fight post-run pain.

A German study showed runners who were given non-alcoholic beer for three weeks before the Munich marathon suffered less inflammation in comparison with the runners who were not given beer.

Green tea contains anti-inflammatory polyphenols which are known to be absorbed by the body.

For good proteins make pre mason jar salads. Consider adding cooked beans, chickpeas, groundnuts, lentil sprouts. Make it beforehand. They are great sources of post work protein.

Low-fat yogurts are another good source of protein. Eat it with honey. Honey is a natural sweetener and gives instant energy. Berries are good antioxidants and can be eaten with yogurt. They are useful to counter the oxidative stress that builds in the muscle after the run.

According to the internationally recognized author in the field of sports and nutrition, Dr Philip Maffetone says eating 50gm a day fresh or frozen blueberries is the best source for reducing runners oxidative stress.

Milk and oats and milk and cornflakes, milk porridge is excellent replenishers of lost nutrients, great in fiber content and delicious source of carbohydrates and protein.

A late night glass of milk will build muscles as you sleep.

All nuts are good for post running recovery as they contain protein as well as a healthy fat.

Avocado is good for reducing inflammation. Mash and spread on an open sandwich or have it in salads. It is excellent for lean muscle growth as each fruit contains 15 gms of good fat.

Try Adding sesame seeds in your post-run salad or smoothie. It ensures a good amount of amino acids.

Easily digestible carbs like toast with jelly, jam or butter are also a good option for lighter runs. Nut butter is a great source of vitamin E and helps in fighting oxidative stress and muscle damage. They can be used on toasts/crackers, in a salad, in a smoothie, etc.

Rice and potato are good options to refuel the muscle. The reason being they have a high glycemic index.

Good lean protein options are chicken breast (21gms), salmon (21gms), lean beef(21gms), turkey breast(21gms), half cup cottage cheese (14gms), half cup cottage cheese (14gms), 1 large egg (6gms), greek yogurt (14gms).

Both chicken and turkey pack good levels of D-aspartic acid, which aids in muscle repair.

According to the Internationally recognized author in the field of sports and nutrition, Dr. Philip Maffetone, beef is the best meat for muscle growth and helps in digestion. Beef also contains the most easily absorbed form of iron. Eat organic and grass fed beef. According to him, a 100 gms steak contains 22gms of protein which is adequate.

Eggs are a quick source of proteins and essential amino acids. They can be eaten boiled, scrambled or as an omelet. The yolk contains calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, folate as well as omega 3 fats.

Fatty fish like tuna and salmon are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids which are helpful in fighting off inflammation.

According to research, because of their anti-inflammatory effect, they can minimize muscle soreness and pain.

Sardines pack a similar protein profile as tuna but provide more iron, vitamin D and omega 3s.

According to recent studies, salmon also contains bioactive protein molecules that may be beneficial for joint cartilage.

All these protein options can be combined with either a salad or can be made into a sandwich with whole wheat bread or with whole wheat pasta or rice. Remember the 4:1 ratio of carbs and proteins!

Some Additional Tips

Some runners experience nausea after running. In that case, have a sports drink which will replenish lost fluids. If one cannot stomach solid food, drink cold chocolate Milk. it is a refreshing drink providing ideal amounts of proteins and carbohydrates and also contain Vit B.

To make sure the rehydration is adequate, take note of the color of urine. If its a light shade of yellow like lemonade then you are going good. Dark yellow color means hydration is not adequate and one needs to keep drinking.

If one is weight watching, try eating food which is low in the glycemic index so that one feels fuller for a long time

It is a good idea to coincide runs with meal times. That way one does not need to add extra recovery snacks.

Always prepare post running food before running and not after. A good idea is to make a few of the above-written foods beforehand and put in in the fridge.

Regardless of the intensity of your runs, have proteins, antioxidant-rich foods and anti-inflammatory foods that can repair muscle damage. Only the quantity of carbs should be increased or decreased depending on the intensity of runs.

According to American fitness author and food blogger Mark Sisson, processed sugars and especially sweet beverages are the worst things to consume after running because it has inflammatory properties and produces free radicals. Runners who consume processed sugar food and beverages wake up the next morning with sore muscles, tight ankles, and fatigue.

In the end, after one has refueled the body, replace fluid losses by drinking at regular intervals throughout the day. Get a good night’s sleep. This is when most of your muscle repair will occur. Keeping in mind all the great food options written above, you are already halfway on your journey towards fitness and great health. Keep it up!

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