Post-Run Nutrition – A Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach Shares Her Formula
We all know the importance of getting the right post-race and post-run nutrition, but not all foods are equal. Some can restore muscles and reduce inflammation more than others. You are looking for a good combination of carbohydrates and protein (with a little healthy fat) that is easy to digest. This will make a difference with recovery, hydration, building muscle and increasing your performance.
What is important about these macronutrients?
When you run hard or lift weights, your muscle tissue becomes slightly damaged (called “micro-tears”). Your body responds to these micro-tears by secreting hormones like cortisol and increasing blood flow to the area to deliver oxygen and nutrients to repair the damage and rebuild the muscles. Proper post run nutrition can make a big difference evoking a more rapid and efficient repair process.
The two most important post run macronutrients are carbohydrates and protein.
Endurance running is mainly fueled by glycogen, a stored carbohydrate in the body so that’s the first thing to think of when it comes to replenishing our muscles.
Eating protein after exercise prevents protein breakdown and stimulates growth for recovery, leading to increased or maintained muscle tissue and better performance.
When should you eat after a workout?
In the past, it was thought that one must immediately eat or have a sport drink or guzzle a protein/carb smoothie after a hard run or workout. New research points to the fact that your body still absorbs nutrients hours after a workout. Don’t wait all day to eat. Try to nourish your body within two hours after a race or workout. This is good news when considering getting ready for work, travel, or those with sensitive stomachs.
Are sports drinks a good idea?
I am not a fan of sports drinks. They are often loaded with unnecessary sugars – some popular sports drinks for example have as much as 34 grams of sugar in a 20oz serving. This is ok when running a marathon when your body can process the sugar quickly as fuel, but otherwise don’t drink your calories! A better choice would be water or electrolyte drinks such as Ultima Replenisher which replenishes your body without the sugar. In hot summer months, it is helpful to have an electrolyte drink pre- and post-run if you are running more than an hour.
Water intake is under-rated. We should drink, in ounces, half of our body weight at the very least. (Some would say an ounce of water per pound). For example, if you weigh 140 lbs, you should drink at least 70 oz of water per day. This helps hydrate muscles, improve organ function and is great for your skin!
Still not sure what to do for your post-race or post-run nutrition? Here are some easy, nutrient-rich options:
- Cherries and blueberries can delay muscle soreness
- Pineapple helps decrease inflammation and give your immune system a boost
- Watermelon is 90% water so it is a great hydrator
- Bananas are a good source of carbs and potassium and are easy to digest. Add almond butter or a serving of almonds, pistachios or walnuts for a dose of healthy fats
- Oatmeal is a hearty and healthy complex carb
- Greek yogurt provides a quick low-sugar protein
- Avocado toast may be a fad, but it’s a good fad as it is full of nutrients. Serve with whole grain bread for a balanced snack
- Eggs are a classic protein powerhouse with all of the amino acids
- Leafy greens such as broccoli, kale and spinach are full of vitamin k and great for bone strength
- Hummus or roasted chickpeas are an excellent choice for a boost of vegan protein
- Bone broth is great for recovery, especially after a long run. it is not only helpful for joints and inflammation, but it’s also loaded with protein. I heat up a cup in a mug, add a little cayenne pepper, turmeric and drink it like tea
Think before you eat and try to substitute unhealthy options with healthier ones. For example, instead of choosing a sugar-loaded energy bar, try farro, quinoa, brown rice, or roasted sweet potatoes for a better way to replenish carbs and keep you full longer.
If you have trouble eating solid food after your run, try a protein smoothie made with a banana, almond milk, cinnamon and chocolate protein powder (if you are dairy sensitive try a plant-based protein powder over a whey protein powder). Your post-run nutrition doesn’t always have to be solid food.
And remember, your body is a beautiful machine.
Take care of the Ferrari!