Post-run snacking is crucial for runners of all levels. You need to replace the energy you’ve used during the run and give your body the resources it needs to build muscle and improve endurance. Read this article for ideas about what to eat after each run.
Importance of the Post-Run Snack
Whether you’re training for a race or just running for fitness and fun, it’s important that you always remember to eat properly and at the right times in order to avoid injury and burnout and to feel at your best on each running day. Even if you are only running a few miles per week, eating soon after your run is important. The reason post-run snacks are so important is that, when you exercise, your body uses the available carbohydrate energy to keep you going.
Serious runners even try to train their bodies to continue burning stored energy after the ready carbohydrate supply has run out. After a run, your body will need to recover from the exertion, and recovery requires energy, too. Replacing the carbohydrates you used during the run will help you recover faster and feel better during your next run.
Carbs and Protein
A common misconception about post-run eating is that only carbohydrate replacement is necessary. Many people invest in carbohydrate gels and other sports nutrition products meant to give a carbo boost. These things have their place, but after a run you should be aiming for a good mix of carbohydrates and protein.
Protein is crucial for muscle development and long-term energy storage, so consuming some protein after a run can mean the difference between simply recovering and improving. If you run many miles at a time, you may need to replace your energy stores in the middle of the run. That’s when carbohydrate gels can come in handy. One rule of thumb states that if you are running for 90 minutes or longer, you should eat something once per hour, even if you don’t feel hungry.
After the run, treat yourself to something a little more balanced than carbohydrate gel. To repeat, it’s important to get both carbs and protein. Sooner is better when it comes to post-run snacks, and ideally you should eat something within 15 minutes after your run. If you’re on the go, something like a protein bar or other easy snack is a good choice. Protein bars have a large amount of protein and also have a good deal of carbohydrate. Often, these bars also contain important electrolytes and other nutrients that you may have expended during a particularly tough run. Remember to drink lots of water with the bar to aid digestion!
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Protein bars aren’t for everyone, and snacks specifically designed for athletes can often be prohibitively expensive. There are plenty of other good options, however, and in many cases more natural snacks with fewer ingredients can be better for you in the long run. Many runners swear by peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, for example. This is a great choice because the bread and jelly work as carbohydrate replacements, and peanut butter is full of protein. Apple slices and peanut butter is also a favorite. These can take some time to prepare, so if you’re going off on a long run, make sure to fix yourself a snack ahead of time to make sure you have something ready when you get back.
Chocolate milk can be great for after a run. Milk is high in protein, and the added sugar works to replace those lost carbs. If you choose chocolate milk, make sure not to skimp on the amount of water that you drink after a run. Although milk is somewhat hydrating, sugar is dehydrating, so it’s still important to get plenty of pure H2O. Also, look for chocolate milk that’s sweetened with natural sugar or another sweetener, rather than with corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. This is especially important for those monitoring their caloric intake, because corn syrup may not make you feel full.
Eat What You Like
When it comes to post-run refueling, the sky is the limit. The suggestions here are good choices for a speedy recovery and improved endurance, but any balanced snack can give you the nutrition you need. As always, avoid junk foods and try to stick to healthy, natural options. The post-run snack should be something that you look forward to at the end of a training session, and this little reward will help you improve no matter what your running goals.