Your Ideal Post-Run Nutrition Strategy

Woman running in mountains

Figuring out what to eat after your run can be challenging. Either you’re ravenous and ready to devour everything in sight, or you’re not really hungry and forget to refuel altogether. The second scenario seems particularly counterintuitive – you just pounded miles after miles on the pavement, left your blood, sweat and (hopefully happy) tears out on the road, and now your appetite is just gone. Poof. Vanished.

Depriving yourself after a hard sweat session is the last thing you’ll want to do. After your run, your body’s gas tank is emptied and refueling with the right kind of nutrients should be number one on your agenda. By getting the perfect post-exercise nutrition down, you will minimize your risk for injury, speed up recovery time and even boost your body’s ability to burn excess fat. Let’s dive into it and explore the best foods to eat after running.

Why it’s so important to fuel properly after each run

Healthy eating habits are crucial when it comes to refueling post-run. During a hard workout, your body depletes its stores of glycogen and your muscles, joints and bones are literally put under physical stress. There’s a rapid increase in energy demands and your heart and lungs are running on high speed right there with you. Afterwards, particularly if you’ve done a longer session, your muscles experience micro-tears in their tissues, which must be repaired in order to grow.

Don’t refuel after your run and you might end up feeling particularly sore and experience a lack of concentration and lightheadedness post-exercise. Not only are these symptoms right-down annoying, but they can also significantly impact your further running performance. Proper nutrition allows you to train harder, longer and more efficiently, as your muscles grow and your body becomes stronger.

If you’re part of the running-to-lose-weight club, you’ll particularly want to avoid under-fueling. Not replacing lost calories, at least partially, can result in disturbed hormonal functions in women, impair your metabolic rate, heart health, protein synthesis and your immune system. All of which eventually lead you to be more prone to injury in the long run.

Top nutrients to consume after running

Before we break down the macro-nutrients best consumed after running, let’s first get your hydrations levels back intact. During your run, especially if it’s hot outside or if you just sweat a lot, you may lose a significant amount of fluids. Dehydration negatively affects your ability to recover for your next workout. Depending on your sweat rate, intensity of the workout, speed and body size, you’ll want to aim for 0,5 to 1 liter of water after your run to replace lost fluids.

Food-wise, your best friends after your runs are carbohydrates and proteins. The longer your run, the higher your carb-intake should be. The more you up your intensity, the more protein should make its way into your post-workout meal. Your goal should be to consume a high carbohydrate meal within 30 minutes after running, particularly if your run was long and you’re running again the next day. Combine this with at least 15-20 grams of protein and your body will easily absorb the glucose and amino acids and help repair and grow your muscles.

#High Protein Meal-Tip:

My absolute favorite recovery meal after a run is a high-protein fruit smoothie. I definitely fall into the category of not feeling hungry immediately post-run, so a smoothie is basically a triple-remedy: I’m replacing lost fluids and having my carbs and protein at the same time.  Here comes me favorite smoothie drink:

  • 150-200 grams of frozen raspberries
  • 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein powder
  • A dash of cinnamon or pumpkin spice
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds

Mix! It’s a smoothie filled with anti-oxidants, complex carbs and protein. This is a surefire way to refuel properly and make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need post-run.

#High Carb Meal-Tip:

Especially after long runs or bike rides, just having a protein-smoothie doesn’t cut it. I usually opt for a nice, balanced meal with complex carbs, veggies and a palm-sized portion of protein. This is my number one go to meal to consume after running:

  • 1 medium sized sweet potato
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 200-300 grams of fresh or frozen spinach

Boil the sweet potato in hot water until soft or microwave for around 5 minutes. Prepare the eggs however you like – I usually just boil them with the sweet potatoes or enjoy them poached. Defrost the spinach or have it on the side as a fresh salad with some oil and vinegar. The possibilities are endless! It’s a nutrient-dense meal with good proteins, healthy fat and iron, which makes this a perfect meal to eat after running.

If you don’t have the time to make a full meal because well, life gets busy – just have a high-quality recovery bar based on carbs and protein. One of my favorite bars it the Kind Energy Chocolate Chunk Bar. It’s a super grain blend, and gives you a good source of fiber, carbs and protein.

3 foods you should never eat after running

After your run, you don’t want to ruin your efforts with the wrong kind of food. Here’s a list of absolute no-go’s in terms of how to refuel after a run:

  • Sodas
    You may be tempted to grab that coke after a run, but it doesn’t nothing for your hydrations levels and is filled with tons of sugar. Stay away from sodas and similar drinks, if you don’t want to damage your body.
  • Fatty foods

This is a tough one, because sometimes you’re just dying to have that burger and fries post-run. Anything fried though after your workout, slows down the digestion process and will significantly delay the much-needed nutrients into your muscles.

  • Sugary snacks

Oh, that delicious chocolate bar just sitting on the counter, starring at you. Calling for you. Don’t give into the temptation and reach for a healthy snack instead. While it’s normal to crave sugary snacks or coffee after your run, those little pick-me-ups can seriously backfire and send your blood sugar levels plummeting. This will make you crave even more junk food later on and your insulin levels are sent on a little roller-coaster ride for the rest of the day.

Conclusion: your best post-run fuel

Having the right refueling strategy down after your run is essential if you want to get faster, experience less injuries and recover better. If you implement those healthy eating habits from the get-go, your training efforts will be rewarded much quicker and you’ll have even more fun on your runs. Just remember the three pillars of proper refueling, including hydration, carbohydrates and protein intake, and you’re ready to go!