Recovery and proper fueling is just as important as the time you put in during training runs.
“Eating the right foods after a workout helps repair damaged muscles, builds new muscle fibers, replenishes glucose stores and restores fluid and electrolyte levels,” says Torey Armul, a Columbus, Ohio-based Registered Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And all of those benefits help you recover faster, so you’re ready for your next run.
There’s an optimal “recovery window”—within 30 to 45 minutes after exercise—when your blood pressure and heart rate are elevated, and your body absorbs nutrients faster and more efficiently, Armul says.
After runs that last longer than an hour, you should aim for 10 to 20 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. You’ll also need carbohydrates to replenish your glucose stores, so aim to consume 0.23 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. Within two hours of exercise, consume more carbs—up to 0.68 grams per pound of body weight.
Here are 5 of Armul’s favorite post-run recovery snacks. They pack protein, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes in a small package. And because they’re tasty, portable, and convenient, they make it easy to keep your recovery on track:
1. Nuts or homemade trail mix
Raisins are portable, energy dense, and contain potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and other electrolytes you need to run strong. And with 34 grams of carbs in a 1.5-ounce box, they’ll help restore your spent glycogen stores, no problem.
Add almonds, or pistachios for added protein, vitamin E (an antioxidant that boosts circulation), and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Incorporate walnuts for anti-inflammatory and heart health-boosting omega 3s.
2. Nut butter with crackers, apples, bananas, or carrots
All-natural nut butter (almond, cashew, or peanut) contains protein, healthy fats, and fiber to keep post-run hunger at bay. Pair nut butter with a banana for carbs and potassium. Have it with carrots and apples for a satisfying crunch plus vitamin A, B, carotene and immune-boosting Vitamin C.
3. Chocolate Milk
Brimming with bone-building calcium in addition to protein and carbs, chocolate milk will help you rehydrate as you refuel. What’s more, chocolate milk can help replace electrolytes you lost through sweat. Studies have shown that athletes who consume chocolate milk post workout performed just as well or better than those who drink sports drinks.
4. Granola Bars
Look around for whole-foods-based products with a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Try a variety of brands and flavors to figure out which give you a boost without upsetting your stomach. Stick with wholesome ingredients, so you get the vitamins and minerals you need without the additives you don’t.
5. Greek yogurt (or a smoothie made with Greek yogurt)
Greek yogurt offers more protein, calcium, and Vitamin D than traditional yogurt. And its thick, creamy texture and healthy fat (full-fat yogurt is our favorite) will help you feel satiated. Add in bananas for carbs and potassium, or strawberries, which offer vitamin C to help repair muscles, fight off inflammation and ward off coughs and colds.
And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, especially as springtime temps rise over the next couple of months. “Dehydration can lead to physical and mental fatigue, cramping, cardiovascular stress, and slow recovery time,” says Armul.
Interested in making some tasty post-run snacks at home. Try the recipes in this book!