For many people, the notion of not having an appetite or desire to eat anything sounds like a good “predicament” to be in.
After all, the number of runners trying to lose weight, quell seemingly nonstop cravings or rein in emotional eating probably far surpasses the number of runners who struggle with not feeling like eating.
However, running definitely can zap your appetite, yet we know it’s really important to refuel after a workout.
In these situations, it’s great to have ideas for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating to ensure that your recovery isn’t compromised by waiting too long after running to have a snack.
In this article, we will provide some ideas for what to eat when you’re not hungry. Hopefully, something will whet your appetite and can become your go-to option for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating.
13 Ideas for What to Eat When You Don’t Feel Like Eating After Running
Here are some of the best choices for what to have when you don’t feel like eating after running or working out:
Smoothies tick off pretty much every box in terms of being the best things to eat when you’re not hungry after running.
First and foremost, depending on what ingredients you use, smoothies can be one of the best post-run snacks or meals from a nutritional standpoint.
You can use fruits and greens for carbohydrates, protein powder and yogurt for protein, and nut butter and seeds for healthy fats.
Plant-based milk or 100% fruit juice can be used to blend it all together.You’ll get tons of antioxidants and the ideal ratio of carbohydrate to protein to replenish depleted glycogen stores and help your muscles repair and rebuild.
Secondly, because they are usually made with ice or frozen fruits, smoothies are super cold.
This means drinking a smoothie after exercise can help lower your elevated core temperature back to baseline.
One of the primary reasons that runners lose their appetite after running is because the core temperature is elevated after exercise.
Animal studies determined that the increase in body temperature from exercise can also increase the temperature of the brain. This, in turn, suppresses activity in regions of the brain that stimulate appetite.
Therefore, in addition to giving you the nutrition you need to refuel and rehydrate after working out, they can help reverse the “problem,” or reason why you’re not hungry after running.
Although your body temperature will drift back down as your body restores homeostasis naturally, this process can take upwards of an hour or more on its own, depending on how vigorous your workout was, the environmental conditions, and the other efforts you make to cool down.
It may take even more time after that for your appetite to return.
However, the research shows that you should try to have your post-run snack within 30 minutes after finishing your workout.
Therefore, if you wait for your appetite to bounce back naturally, you’ll be likely waiting too long that you’ll miss that ideal timeframe for post-workout nutrition.
Finally, from an appetite perspective, smoothies can be a good choice for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating because it’s often much easier to trick your brain into drinking calories because you don’t have to chew.
Drinking a smoothie can be refreshing, and you can try to sip it slowly while you stretch or do some foam rolling after your run.
You can also blend up your smoothie and then drive to work and sip it from a travel bottle or suck it down as you go about your business at home.
Before you know it, you will have finished the smoothie, and as your body cools down and your blood sugar comes back up, you will feel less nauseated and hopefully ready to eat real food in another hour or so.
#2: Protein Shakes
Protein shakes are a great choice for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating because they can be fairly calorically dense and are certainly packed with muscle-reparative protein.
Again, like smoothies, because you drink a protein shake, they are often more appetizing things to have when you’re not hungry after running but know you need to eat something.
Protein shakes are also primarily liquid, so they’ll help you with your rehydration efforts as well.
There are different types of protein shakes for runners.
The Orgain protein shakes contain 20 grams of protein and are low in calories (150 calories per serving) because they are sweetened with stevia.
This is a light option for runners looking for a smaller snack after a short run.
One nice thing is that they also have 10 organic fruits and vegetables (including Acai, spinach, and kale). They also taste amazing, especially the chocolate ones!
The Ripple protein shakes are a better option for runners who can handle real sugar because you’ll get the carbs you need to replenish glycogen stores as well as 20 grams of plant-based protein.
Pre-made protein shakes are super convenient for runners on the go, and if you chill them before you go running, you can sip them down shortly after you get back, helping lower your body temperature.
As your temperature returns to baseline and your fluid levels come back up, your appetite may follow.
Another option for post-workout protein shakes is making your own with protein powder.
You can either just shake one up by adding protein powder and water into a shaker bottle, or, more ideally, you can blend one up in a blender and add a few other ingredients.
While the water option is acceptable, depending on the particular protein powder you use, you may not be getting the carbohydrates you need to replenish glycogen after long workouts. Many protein powders are very low in carbohydrates.
Mixing the protein powder with just water can also make for a protein shake with a chalky consistency.
If you’re already struggling to muster an appetite, trying to suck down a chalky shake might further send your stomach into queasy knots.
Blending a protein shake with milk or plant-based milk, half a banana, and some nut butter is a great way to get a healthier, well-rounded, nutrient-packed protein shake for refueling after running.
There are lots of great protein powders for runners, but some of our favorites include the new line of protein powders from PB2 and Vega because they are made with clean ingredients, taste great, and digest easily with no gas or bloating.
Even more so than smoothies, popsicles are ice cold, so they can help drop your body temperature quickly.
They are also entirely fluid, which means you’ll start rehydrating as well.
You can certainly buy all sorts of pre-made popsicles. Of course, anything all-natural will be best, but they even have frozen sports drink popsicles these days, like Powerade popsicles.
You can also make your own sports popsicles. We recommend making them with something like Cheribundi tart cherry juice because drinking tart cherry juice is a great way to reduce inflammation after exercise.
This one is simple. A cold piece of fruit can be just the refreshing snack you can tolerate for times when you are looking for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating.
Fruit is essentially entirely composed of carbohydrates, so it’s a good choice for before or after exercise.
You might not feel like peeling and eating a whole banana when you just finished running, but if you cut up some watermelon or honeydew or have some cold grapes in the fridge, you can slowly pick at a bowl of fruit while you stretch.
You’ll also get lots of water, and as your blood sugar levels come back up, you might feel less nauseated and ready to eat something more substantial.
#5: Chocolate Milk
As can be seen, there’s a theme here: if you’re not hungry after working out, it can be easiest to drink your calories.
You can even use plant-based milk if you don’t do well with dairy.
Soup isn’t going to win over any runners who aren’t hungry after running because they’re overheated, but after chilly fall or winter runs, a bowl of broth-based soup can hit the spot.
Soup tends to be high in sodium unless you make your own, so you’ll also get lots of electrolytes if you’re dehydrated.
You can make your own vegetable stock, meat-based stock, or bone broth and sip that after your workout.
#7: Fruit Juice
Fruit juice isn’t necessarily the healthiest option for everyday nutrition, but 200% fruit juice can be a decent option for what to have after running when you don’t feel like eating anything.
#8: Sherbet, Ice Cream, or Frozen Yogurt
A frozen dessert like frozen yogurt, sherbet, or ice cream can hit the spot after exercising.
These foods are an easy way to get quick calories in and lower your body temperature.
Plus, who can say “no” to ice cream?
Applesauce is part of the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), often physician-recommended for kids with the stomach bug. These foods are simple to digest and can be more palatable when you don’t have an appetite.
You can add cinnamon, flax seeds, or chia seeds to add more flavor and nutrients.
#10: Crackers or Toast
Plain crackers like saltines or oyster crackers, or toast, are bland options that can be easy to stomach after running when you need to eat but don’t feel hungry.
#11: Rice Cakes
Rice cakes can be eaten plain if you’re nauseous, but if you can stomach a topping like peanut butter or sliced banana, you’ll get in more calories and nutrients.
Pudding can be a good option for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating after a workout.
It’s smooth, cold, and sweet. Pudding is also relatively high in calories for volume and will give you a decent amount of carbohydrates. Some runners stir in some protein powder to make it a really fantastic post-run protein-packed snack.
#13: Fruit Snacks or Fruit Leather
Fruit snacks or fruit leather can also be easy to eat after running when you aren’t hungry. They are packed with carbohydrates, and you can get a decent number of calories with very little volume.
Raisins or dried fruit are an even more nutritious choice.
Remember, your goal is to eat something within 30 minutes after finishing your workout, so experiment with some of these ideas of what to eat when you aren’t hungry after running, and see if any work for you.