What and when you eat post-run can have a massive impact on your recovery and your mood!
Refueling properly after a run helps to restock your glycogen stores, aids in protein synthesis, and tops up your electrolyte stores.
In this article, we will dive into…
- Whether you even need to eat after a run,
- how long to wait to eat after a run,
- the importance of eating carbs, protein, and electrolytes after running,
- whether drinking coffee after a run is a good idea,
- and some post-run meal ideas.
Are you ready to learn what to eat after a run?
Let’s jump in!
Should You Eat After a Run?
Short answer: yes!
Eating after a run (or any workout) is essential for replenishing all that is lost during exercise.
Refueling properly post-run is key to bouncing back from your workout and recovering stronger.
- Related: What To Eat Before a Morning Run
How Soon After a Run Should You Eat?
The age-old post-run question goes something like this, ‘should I eat first or shower first?’.
The answer – it depends on how long you take in the shower!
As a rule of thumb, you should eat as quickly as possible after a run. The standard advice is to eat within the hour, preferably within the half-hour.Registered dietitian Mackenzie Burgess says, “try to eat a snack within 30-60 minutes of working out. The sooner after the better. This is because your body is in a prime state to take in nutrients and allow muscles to recover.”
So, if you don’t want to be stinky, the speedier you are in the shower, the better!
The Importance of Consuming Electrolytes After a Run
If your workout is particularly long, grueling, or you’re training in a hot climate, you might want to think about topping up your electrolytes.
As you run, and inevitably sweat, your body loses electrolytes.
These are important chemicals, which are necessary for your body to function.
Electrolytes lost in sweat mainly include sodium and chloride, with potassium, magnesium, and calcium being lost in lower amounts.
Chances are, if you’ve sweat a lot during your run, that you’ll have lost a decent amount of sodium and chloride.
Studies show that sodium-rich foods have the added bonus of increasing fluid retention when combined with water. This helps to restore the water lost via sweating- topping up your hydration.
This one is easy to replace – eat food that contains salt, or add salt as necessary.
The Importance of Eating Carbohydrates After a Run
While running you also burn through your glycogen stores– the glucose chains which are stored in your liver and muscles. These stores are your running fuel source and power you through your workout.
Endurance sports, like running, burn through your body’s glycogen stores faster than resistance training. So it is important to re-stock!
If you want to get technical, research suggests that you need to consume between 0.5 and 0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight after a workout for proper glycogen resynthesis.
But there’s no need to get the kitchen scales out! Just make sure to include a form of carbohydrates into your post-run meal and eat until you’re satisfied. Your body knows best!
The Importance of Eating Protein After a Run
Do not be alarmed, but exercising triggers the breakdown of muscle protein. The rate at which this happens depends on the intensity and duration of your workout, but it is unavoidable.
This may sound scary, but it is not!
All that it means is that getting in some protein after a run is important.
Eating the right amount of protein after a run means that your body can repair and rebuild its muscles. It also gives your body the building blocks to grow bigger, stronger muscles.
But what is the right amount of protein?
Once again, getting technical here! Studies have indicated that a good amount of protein to consume post-exercise is between 0.14 and 0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
So aim to eat between 20 and 40 grams of protein after a run.
Registered dietitian Mackenzie Burgess spoke to Marathon Handbook;
“As a rule of thumb, aim for about a 1:3 ratio of protein to carbohydrates.”
BUT, It is generally not a great idea for your mental health to be too pernickety with getting your nutrition stats spot on. Just ensure you incorporate a protein source into your post-run meal, and eat enough!
The Importance of Hydrating After a Run
Even if it’s not a hot day out you are bound to lose water via sweat and through your breath.
Staying hydrated helps every single bodily function.
It will help to regulate your body temperature, improve your recovery time, minimise muscle cramping, and help you to get back on your feet and energised after a running session.
Is drinking coffee after a run a good idea?
Interestingly, some research suggests that a post-workout caffeinated drink can speed up your recovery.
Tea, coffee, and oat milk matcha latte with a pump of vanilla- whatever floats your boat.
Some studies indicate that the caffeine found in your cup of coffee can stimulate the rate at which glycogen is transported to the muscles, therefore speeding up your muscle recovery post-run.
In fact, drinking caffeine post-run can speed up the rate that glycogen is transported to your muscles by an impressive 66%.
So go ahead and enjoy a post-run coffee! As long as it’s not getting close to bed-time!
What happens if you don’t eat post-run?
Skipping your post-run refuelling won’t kill you, but it isn’t smart.
You might feel fatigued and groggy.
Do this often enough and you may end up confusing the feeling of exhaustion with an effect of your workout.
Workouts are meant to be fun and leave you feeling energised!
More seriously though, not eating after a run can lead to an impaired recovery process: which can cause overuse injuries, muscle damage, and burnout, just to name a few.
Post-Run Snack Ideas
So, we’ve established the importance of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and protein post-run.
Hitting all of these requirements may sound like a big ask, but don’t worry!
Getting a meal or a snack in which contains protein, carbs, and electrolytes doesn’t need to be hard.
If your run wasn’t too strenuous- maybe you ran at a gentle pace for an hour or less- and you don’t have the time to make a full meal, a snack will do just fine!
Here are some post-run snack ideas:
1. A smoothie!
Try combining fruit with protein powder, maybe throw in some oats or nut butter, and add in some milk of your choice.
Smoothies don’t need a recipe, they can be pretty experimental and completely up to personal interpretation.
However, if you are looking for a recipe here is my favourite:
Add 1 Banana, a handful of frozen berries, 2 big spoonfuls of peanut butter, and a cup of soy or cow milk into a blender and whizz up!
2. Pitta bread with hummus
After a savoury snack? This one is a classic, and cheap and easy!
3. Chocolate milk!
Chocolate milk has been a popular post-run snack for a while now, and for good reason!
Not only is it delicious and nostalgic, but its combination of simple carbs from the sugar, and protein from the milk, makes it a great quick fix for your well-worked muscles.
Have a banana along with your chocolate milk for an extra carby boost and a hit of potassium.
4. Energy balls
We’ve got a great recipe for energy balls that combines carby oats with creamy protein-rich peanut butter, and other goodies.
You can make a batch of these in advance and have them on hand to grab and go after a run.
- Related: marathon training plans
Here are some post-run meal ideas:
Maybe you’ve been on a long run, or finished your run just before lunch or dinner time, or perhaps you’re simply too hungry to just eat a snack.
Luckily, most of your standard meals are probably already great post-run fuel without you even realising it!
Just make sure you’ve got a protein and a carb source and you’re good to go!
Here are some examples of great post run meals:
1. Pasta with chicken and pesto
If you want an extra dose of fibre, swap the pasta for wholewheat. Vegetarian? Use a chicken alternative.
2. A sandwich! Fill it with any kind of protein source you like!
Peanut butter and jam, cream cheese and veggies, an omelette- it’s up to you!
3. A burrito
Beans, rice, cheese, sour cream, guac, hot sauce, salsa, it’s all good!
This is a great handheld protein, carb, and veggie vessel.
4. A chickpea or lentil curry with rice
This is a good one to make in bulk. Keep it in the fridge for an easy and cheap post run meal.
5. Chili con (or sin) carne with rice or potatoes
Also a good one to bulk make and an effortless combo of carbs and protein.
6. Tofu Pad Thai with crunchy peanuts
If you don’t have all the ingredients for an authentic Pad Thai, no worries. Just throw any veggies or protein you have in the fridge into a pan, fry in a little oil, and add noodles and sauce for a quick and easy stir fry.
Still after some more meal inspiration?
Take a look at our Recipes For Runners section!