What to Eat to Recover After a Run – A Complete Guide
If you are a runner, then you may already know that the best post-run recovery foods are not necessarily limited to energy bars and post-workout recovery drinks that don’t taste that great. There are many tasty foods that you can eat after a long run. However, you should always choose them according to the intensity of your workout and other specific goals like losing weight. Remember that what you put in your body plays a crucial role in your post-run recovery and how quickly you’ll be able to run again. So, this is what you need to eat for a swift post-run recovery!
What your body needs after a run
We have already discussed what you need to give your body before a run, but the machine also has to recover afterward. Firstly, keep in mind that the body has to deal with plenty of effort and stress during a difficult and long running session. So, it will need certain things that can help it recover more easily. More precisely, after a run, your body needs carbs, protein, fluids, and electrolytes.
You absolutely need to add carbs to your recovery meal shortly after the run because it helps the body restore glycogen stores, which are depleted during the workout. Fruit and vegetables are the best sources of healthy carbs in this case because they are easy to digest and contain plenty of antioxidants and minerals, which nourish your body.
Fluids and electrolytes
Through sweat, you lose a lot of salt which you should replenish through fluids like sports drinks or fresh homemade smoothies and juices.
Protein is an extremely important macronutrient that keeps your muscles in good shape after a long run or intense workout. The best idea would be to mix protein and carbs in the post-run meal that you will eat immediately after your routine. Moreover, your body will replenish glycogen and metabolize protein a lot better if you do it.
So, here’s a short list of what you should consume to help your body recover fast after a long and difficult run.
What to Eat to Recover After a Run
1. Chocolate milk
Chocolate milk is not only delicious, but research has shown that it is one of the best post-workout recovery drinks out there. It is very easy to carry around and is full off carbs and protein, the perfect mix. It will restore your energy levels, lift your mood, and boost muscle recovery! However, make sure that you only consume skimmed milk without too much added sugar. You can even add some bananas to this drink if you feel like it or want some extra flavor.
2. Fresh fruit
Speaking of bananas, eating fresh fruit after a difficult running session is perfect for muscle recovery and the replenishment of your potassium stores. You can consume some fruits whole and fresh, like oranges, which will boost your Vitamin C intake and fight muscle damage, or you can consume them as smoothies, juices, or paired with other healthy foods. For example, some of the best ideas for a fruit-based post-run recovery meal are:
- Fruit smoothies with skimmed milk or low-fat yogurt;
- Fruit salad;
- Fruit juice;
- Yogurt with fresh fruits;
- Fresh fruit with seeds and nuts.
3. Nut butter
Nut butter, like peanut butter, is the best alternative to classic butter, which can push your bad cholesterol levels through the roof. For example, walnut almond butter tastes incredible and will offer you a Vitamin E boost to help you fight oxidative stress and muscle damage after a long and difficult run. But, there are many other combinations that you can try so you can both recover after a routine and enjoy this superfood’s amazing taste:
- Nut butter on crackers;
- Nut butter and bananas;
- Nut butter on apple slices;
- Nut butter on wholegrain toast;
- DIY recovery bars made from oats, nut butter, bananas, and honey or maple syrup;
- Banana smoothie with yogurt and nut butter.
4. Low-fat yogurt
When it comes to post-run snacks, natural yogurt is definitely one of the most versatile and popular of them since it has tons of protein. Moreover, you can incorporate it into almost any meal and have it at any time of the day. For example, you can add some granola to it for extra fiber and an immunity boost. If you prefer savory yogurt, just go and buy some plain and low-fat Greek yogurt. It’s definitely the creamiest!
Speaking of great combinations, you can add some honey to plain yogurt whenever you crave something sweet. Honey is a natural sweetener and can offer you a boost of energy. Don’t like honey? Try the yogurt-and-berries combo! Berries will offer the antioxidants your body needs to help your muscles recover from oxidative stress from the workout.
5. Chicken (or turkey)
Chicken or turkey meat is packed with lean protein, which is what makes it a very good option for a post-run snack. The only thing that you should be careful about is cooking it with as little fat as possible, preferably with just a drop of olive oil. You can roast the meat, steam it, or poach it to keep the calorie intake down in case you also want to lose weight. Sliced turkey or chicken breast is one of the most popular ways to consume it. You can also try combining it with vegetables, avocado on wholegrain toast, or hummus.
6. Tuna (or salmon)
Tuna and salmon are both very healthy fatty fish which make great post-workout snacks but are even better as main dishes, especially for runners. Their high omega-3 fatty acid content helps fight off inflammation and quickens recovery. Moreover, if you eat fatty fish after a workout you can minimize the soreness and pain that follow. Fortunately, there are lots of combinations with both tuna and/or salmon:
- Good ol’ sushi;
- Tuna on wholegrain toast;
- Salmon and avocado salad with grapefruit, almonds, and lime vinaigrette;
- Salmon couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, olives, and red peppers;
- Tuna mixed with celery, lettuce, mustard, and hummus;
- Tuna pasta with vegetables.
7. Avocado on toast
Lots of studies have revealed that the monosaturated fats in avocados can improve cardiovascular health and replenish the potassium that we lose through sweat during difficult workouts. For a post-run snack, you can place avocado slices on wholegrain toast with a little bit of salt and pepper on top for extra taste and sodium. If you want even more protein, add a fried egg on top.
8. Egg and vegetable scramble
In theory, you should only eat egg whites but that is no longer true. Most vitamins, like A, D, and E, are found in egg yolks, which makes them ideal post-workout snacks. You can scramble two or three eggs and add fresh veggies to taste. Finally, you can add some Parmesan cheese on top for extra flavor and tastiness.
9. Pizza (done right)
Contrary to the common belief, pizza is an excellent post-workout recovery food – if it’s done right. The goal is to have a whole-wheat crust, lots of vegetables as toppings, and little to no highly-processed meat on it. Processed meats usually contain nitrates, which studies have linked to an increased risk of cancer. What’s more, you’re absolutely free to cook your own pizza at home and enjoy a very tasty and restorative post-run dish that not many might consider healthy.
10. Fried rice
This dish is very easy to make and works great in a post-run meal. Just throw some pre-cooked brown rice into a skillet. Then, add some eggs, soy sauce, chopped vegetables, and finally, some sesame seeds. The sodium will come from the sauce, while the carbs and fiber will come from the veggies and rice. Protein? From the eggs, of course! Moreover, if you happen to still have some leftover lean meat that’s already cooked, add it into the mix! Your post-workout meal will definitely become tastier and much more filling than you’ve ever thought.
Apparently, there are numerous snacks and meals, which you can either buy or cook yourself, that will help your muscles recover after a long and difficult run. It’s important to always remember to add protein, carbs, and fluids to those recovery meals because this is the only way your body can recover from all the effort and continue to function normally. At the end of the day, it’s all about maintaining your health and helping your muscles endure all the extra stress. If you force them to do too much at once, expect injuries and other issues to appear. Take care of your body! It’s the only one you have!
Author Bio: Mike Jones is a Boston-based health and beauty writer. His work is featured mostly on Sound Body Life, but he usually contributes to multiple authoritative websites on the web. Through his writing, Mike constantly encourages everyone to embrace the healing power of nature.