Proper Post-Run Nutrition Can Improve Your Training

An array of healthy fruits, vegetables and meats

Distance runners worry about a lot of things—mileage, pace, shoes, the weather—but are you paying enough attention to post-run nutrition?

What you eat before running is important to fuel you for a workout. Proper post-run refueling, though, is critical if you want to get stronger and faster and do your best on race day.

Short runs (say two miles) don’t require much replenishment. Just following your normal healthy eating plan will suffice. But when you run long or hard, you break down muscle cells and fibers in your legs. In order to rebuild that muscle, you need to fuel with high quality foods. It's also very important to replace fluids lost through sweat.

Consuming a nutritious post-run snack or meal has several benefits:

  • Replenishing muscle glycogen
  • Soft tissue repair
  • Energy restoration
  • Rehydration
  • Inflammation reduction

Carbs are an important part of a runner's diet

Your recovery meal should focus on a specific combination of carbohydrates and protein, ideally in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. This means that for every 3-4 grams of carbs you consume you also need 1 gram of protein.

Timing is also an important part of the equation. Muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen stores immediately after exercise. The clock starts when your cool-down ends, so aim to consume that post-run meal or snack no more than a half-hour from that time.

If you can't stomach solid food immediately, drink some nonfat chocolate milk. It provides the ideal amount of protein and carbohydrates and contains B vitamins, making it a great recovery beverage.

Here are some nutritious post-run refuel ideas:

Banana and nut butter

Bananas are a great source of potassium, an electrolyte that is often depleted during long runs. They also provide a good dose of carbohydrates and protein, with 2 tablespoons of peanut or other nut butter supplying about 8 grams of protein.

Yogurt parfait

A cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt packs in nearly 25 grams of protein. Top 1 cup of yogurt with a handful of berries and a drizzle of honey.

Tart Cherry Smoothie

Tart cherry juice has been found to speed muscle recovery and lower levels of inflammation. Blend 1 cup of tart cherries (or 8 ounces of juice) with 1 cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt and a fresh or frozen banana.

Chicken Pasta with Butternut Squash and Tart Cherries

This recipe is a balance of protein, carbs and anti-inflammatory foods. You can easily make it in advance and eat it left over all week.

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 12 ounces protein or whole grain pasta
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 lb. grilled (or cooked) chicken breasts cut in slices
  • ½ cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange butternut squash on baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 30 minutes.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse and drain cooked pasta with cold water.
  • In skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and sauté onions until golden brown.
  • Stir in chicken and tart cherries with apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan.
  • Stir in broccoli and continue to cook until broccoli is tender; remove from heat.
  • In large bowl, combine pasta with chicken mixture, roasted butternut squash, and a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with Parmesan cheese.

By Sarah Haas. Sarah is a women’s weight loss and fitness coach, integrative nutrition health coach, certified personal trainer, and diabetes expert. Sarah has a passion for empowering busy women to find body love and get their swagger on.

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