Most runners know how important it is to fuel before a run, and even if they don’t know what to eat, they’re at least aware that pre-run nutrition is important. However, post-run nutrition is often forgotten, as so many runners are on a time crunch after their workout, trying to tend to kids, squeeze in errands, get ready for work, or whatever else their day has in store.
I used to be guilty of this. I was great about eating something before my run and I always carried fuel with me during long runs, but as soon as I got home, I’d rush to get started with my day. It took me a while to appreciate how important fueling AFTER a run really is, but after years of having a close friend and a registered dietitian harped about it to me, I’ve developed the habit of fueling after I run, no matter what. He even noted that my injuries could be related to lack of post-run nutrition and overall caloric deficit.
Here’s why: the foods you eat after your run have a huge impact on your recovery. Some foods help restore your muscles, and some replenish lost electrolytes, strengthen your bones, and others reduce inflammation. Knowing what to eat after a run will help you feel better for your next run and throughout the rest of your day.
Before your run, you need about 1-4 g/kg of your body weight in carbohydrates. (You can see what I eat before a run here.) For example, a 150 lb person (68 kg) needs between 68 and 272 grams of carbs. How much depends on how long and/or intense your workout is. Post-run, you need enough carbs to replenish your glycogen stores, which is about 75-105g, again assuming you’re 150 lbs. (Source) For reference, a banana only has 27 grams of carbs.
Protein is important after your run as well. The goal is to eat foods with a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. So, if you’re having 68 grams of carbs, you need around 17g protein. I’ll share a few ways to get those nutrients in this post.
Today I’m sharing the best foods to eat after your run so that you can get the most out of your post-run nutrition and recovery.
I’m putting toast first because it’s my #1 choice of snack, always. I’m a bread girl. I like it in almost any form, but especially homemade if I have the time. Two pieces of whole grain toast with peanut butter gets you about 40g of carbs and 10g of protein. Perfect 4:1 ratio! (If you’re interested, this is the world’s best toaster.)
Eggs are great for post-run recovery, and they’re a yummy way to ensure a great post-run meal too. I love adding spinach, lean turkey sausage, or tomatoes to mine. And, of course, I add salt after a sweaty run since it’s important to replenish electrolytes as well. (This is my favorite electrolyte supplement.) I’ve even started shredding a hard boil egg with a cheese grater on top of avocado toast with the Trader Joe’s Umani seasoning. The flavor and texture is fantastic.
Avocados are perfect for post-run fueling because they have lot of potassium (which we need to replenish after sweating) and they’re healthy fat. It’s important to restore fats to a healthy limit after working out because it helps transport oxygen throughout the body. I add avocado to my smoothies, toast, and eggs.
I LOVE smoothies, even if it’s below freezing outside. It’s quick and easy way to get all of the post-run nutrients (carbs and protein) that you need while making sure it all tastes great too. My 1.5 year old even loves this smoothie recipe (see us making it here!).
Sometimes I add peanut butter too for extra staying power. You can find more of my smoothie recipes here.
Another great post-run snack is hummus. It contains a bit of protein and it’s also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, Magnesium and Iron. Have you ever tried the chocolate hummus from Trader Joes? It’s TO DIE FOR. Hummus isn’t my favorite post running snack if I run in the mornings, but if I run closer to noon, I love to add it to my plate for lunch.
Greek yogurt has TWICE as much protein as regular yogurt. If you can handle dairy, greek yogurt is a great post-run option. I always opt for unsweetened and then add fresh fruit and a little maple syrup since most brands add a LOT of cane sugar.
While it’s tempting to grab a granola bar for a quick post run snack, most of them are full of processed ingredients and sugars. However, if you can make your own granola with whole grains, you’re in better shape. These whole grains help your body replenish carbs and get some protein into your system.
Many runners understand the post run digestive woes, but it’s still important to get nutrients into your system quickly. If you can handle dairy, chocolate milk is a great option because it contains whey protein, which is an easily digestible protein that your body absorbs quickly. This allows for faster recovery! I personally don’t tolerate dairy, so this and yogurt are off the table for me, but if you can eat it, it’s a great option.
Chocolate milk is ideal because it’s the required ratio of 3-4 grams carbohydrate to 1 gram protein. It’s also a complete protein, which means it provides amino acids that your body can’t actually make itself.
Another GREAT post run-fueling snack or breakfast. Cottage cheese has tons of amino acids and calcium, and it also has decently high sodium, which is great for sweaty runs. When I used to eat dairy, I loved fresh peaches on cottage cheese!
Sweet potatoes have a good balance of carbs, fiber, protein and micronutrients to fuel runners. And while they’re a complex carb, they are typically much gentler on people’s guts than many other complex carbs. After almost all my long runs last year leading up to the Boston Marathon, I ate sweet potatoes. They are a great side dish to eggs and the combination of carbohydrates and protein is what the body needs after a hard effort. And you can add sweet potatoes to a smoothie – here’s a recipe designed specifically for post-run needs!
Oatmeal is a high-quality carb source and an easy breakfast for after a morning run since you can make a large batch and eat it throughout the week. I love steel cut oats and if I have time, this banana bruleed steel cut oatmeal. Also try this energy ball recipe I make with oats!
Cherries are like a runner’s super food for recovery. They have antioxidant properties that boost the immune system, AND they have Vitamin C, potassium, folate and iron, which are all great for runners. Studies show that “cherry juice appears to aid recovery following strenuous exercise by increasing total antioxidative capacity, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, hence aiding in the recovery of muscle function.”
I like to buy dried cherries from Trader Joe’s and add them to salads. You could also add frozen cherries or cherry juice to a postrun smoothie.
You might not think of salmon as a post-run option, but a bagel with some cream cheese and lox is a great recovery meal. Salmon has lots of omega-3 fatty acids which are great for recovery, and it’s high in protein source. Or, if you’re into post-run brunch, make pan seared salmon and pair it with greens and toast.
Nuts are a great post-run snack because they have lots of protein and vitamin E. Both help prevent damage to muscles, and the omega 3s they contain reduce inflammation, which is great for post run recovery. But, they contain more fat than protein or carbs, so be sure to pair them with fruit or toast. If nuts or nut butters sit too heavy on your stomach after a run but you like the flavor, try PBfit peanut butter powder in a smoothie too.
Of course, nut butter is also a great food to eat after a run, and it’s a perfect addition to toast, bananas, or even sweet potatoes. It’s a healthy source of fat and protein, and other nutrients.
Bananas are a quick and easy way to re-fuel after a run. They reduce inflammation and help your body replenish glycogen energy stores which both help your body recover quickly. If you struggle to eat after a run because nothing sounds good or your stomach is upset, try a banana and a simple protein shake (these are my favorite protein powders for runners).
If you can throw some kale into your post run smoothie (or eggs!), you’re in great shape. Kale contains tons of vitamin K which helps your body product the proteins needed to strengthen your bones.
Here’s the recipe for my favorite (crowd-pleasing) kale salad. You could also top this with salmon!
Blueberries are a perfect post workout snack due to their antioxidants and their complex carbs. Complex carbs digest slowly, so you’ll be able to use that energy for longer. They’re also known for helping reduce muscle soreness. One of my go-to post run meals is a sweet potato (here’s I make a batch in the Instant Pot each week), with nut butter, fresh blueberries and sea salt. It might sound weird, but try it!
Since watermelon is almost 100% water, it’s a great fruit to eat after a run to aid in rehydration. Pair it with greek yogurt and honey.
Grilled chicken is also a classic healthy way to get some protein in your body post run. A 4oz chicken breast has about 27 grams of protein, plenty to start rebuilding your muscles after a long run or workout. Pair it with some brown rice for a healthy whole grain, and you’ve got yourself a great post run meal full of carbohydrates and protein.
Do you have a favorite post-run snack that’s not on the list? Let me know in the comments below.