Post Run Meal 101 – What to Eat After a Run

Are you a runner (competitive or recreational!) who is wondering what to eat after a run, and looking for advice from someone in the nutrition field?  Well you are in the right place!

Although the post run meal is not always as focused on in the running world, what a runner eats after a run is equally as important as what they eat before or during a run. 

This post will go over what and when to eat after a distance run, rehydration strategies, and why your post run refueling is so important.  

Let’s dive in!

What to eat after a run

So you finished your run, you’re feeling great, but what now?  It’s time to refuel!  But what should you eat?

The ideal meal or snack after a run should include both carbohydrates for replenishing your glycogen stores and protein to repair and refuel your muscles.  It is important to recognize that carbohydrates should make up a majority of your post run meal or snack.

Some examples of post run snacks are:

  • Peanut Butter and Banana
  • Trail Mix
  • Nut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
  • Greek Yogurt with Fruit and/or Granola
  • Cottage Cheese and Fruit
  • Apple Slices and Nut Butter
  • Cereal with Milk
  • Oatmeal with Berries
  • Bagel and Cream Cheese with Chocolate Milk
  • Protein Shake with Fruit

What if you are not feeling as great after a run, and food does not sound like a good idea? Instead of skipping out on your nutrition you can try to drink your nutrition.  A fruit smoothie with protein in either the form of protein powder or yogurt is a great option!

Refueling appropriately after your run will lead to better recovery and prepare you for your next run or workout session.

When to eat after a run

It is imperative to eat a snack as soon as possible after a run.  Ideally you should eat within 30-60 minutes of finishing your run.

After eating your post run snack within 30-60 minutes of finishing your run, you should consume a full meal within 2-3 hours post run for appropriate recovery.

Why the post run meal is important

Refueling after your run with carbohydrates and protein will replete your glycogen stores that were lost during the run.  Essentially this means that the glucose (simplest form of carbohydrate) that was used as fuel in your body for your run will begin to be replaced.

Your post run meal will also jump start your recovery, which will lead you to feeling better overall and having more energy.  Whether you are in a training cycle for a marathon, or going on a run for fun, this post run meal is important for everyone and nutrition should be a part of all training plans.

Post run rehydration

Rehydration should begin as soon as possible after your run.  What you drink for your post run rehydration however depends on a few factors.

If the run was hot and humid and you experienced excess sweating, then an electrolyte drink is your best bet.  The more your sweat, the more electrolytes are lost and will need to be replaced. The sodium and potassium in these drinks will help begin to replace what was lost while sweating.

If you were on an easy run with milder conditions, water would be a fine choice for rehydration.  

It is important to remember though, sports drinks can be drank in post run recovery even if you did not sweat a lot.  If you are more likely to drink sports drinks due to enjoying the flavor, then it is a good choice, especially if the alternative is underhydration.

There are many options available for sports drinks.  There are sports drinks that have a high carbohydrate concentration, and some with zero sugar.  What you choose should depend on what your individual goals are and how your body responds to training. For specific suggestions and recommendations work with a registered dietitian!

Conclusion

Overall, the main takeaway should be that a post run meal or snack should contain carbohydrates and protein, should be consumed within 30-60 minutes of a run, and should include fluids for hydration.

What works for you is going to be different than what works for someone else.  Your post run nutrition is going to be individualized to best fit your needs.  Different people can tolerate different foods post run.

The information provided above is a general guideline.  For more individualized information, reach out to a sports nutrition specialist such as a registered dietitian.

As always, happy running 🙂

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