Diet for runners during training defines how well you perform. Depending on what you eat, your performance could be bettered or hampered. When it comes to choosing foods for after a run, there are certain foods that are considered better for recovery in comparison to others. We will go into greater depths on the type of diet a runner should follow after a run to gain a competitive edge, to allow faster recovery and better enhance training.
When considering a post-run meal, almost all nutrients are important. It is integral that you consider a well-balanced diet after a run and include as many nutrients as possible. The portion of the nutrients you require depends on the intensiveness and length of the run. Longer runs often mean more nutrient consumption, which obviously means you would have to recover these nutrients after a run from the post-run meal.
How Soon Should You Eat After a Run?
The sooner you eat, the better! You should look to eat a snack or a small meal within 30 minutes of the run. This is because nutrients depleted during a hard training session have will to be restored to being the growth and repair process. It is integral that you consume these essential nutrients as soon as possible to enable proper recovery and maintenance.
Within 30 minutes means, you should look to eat as soon as possible. This will allow you to maximise recovery. The sooner you at, the better.
It may become difficult to prepare a whole meal as soon as you finish a race. This is why you should either keep your meal prepared or resort to easy to consume snacks such as fruits and protein bars. When it comes to picking the foods after a run, it is important that you understand the role of each nutrients, allowing you to source and balance your meal.
The Importance of Carbs After a Run
Carbohydrates play an essential role in recovery. During the exercise or run, your body’s stored glycogen reserves are used up as fuel which means your glycogen stores would be used up. Eating carbs after a run allows you to replenish glycogen, thereby allowing you to maintain healthy blood sugar levels (energy levels).
The rate of glycogen depletion will depend on the activity or the run. The more intensive the run is, the more glycogen reserves would be used up. The low glycogen stores would also be the reason why you are facing fatigue. Low glycogen stores lead to muscles not producing ATP fast enough which makes it difficult for them to maintain exercise intensity. Even at rest, a low glycogen store may result in excessive tiredness and weakness.
Hence, it is important that you eat a rich carbohydrate source after a run to replenish glycogen reserves. This will enable you to tackle the weakness that you are experiencing and restore your body’s energy levels. It is the most essential component of recovery after a run and should not be sidestepped.
Eating a good carbohydrate source will dictate whether you are ready for the training the next day or not. The carbohydrate source allows you to recover faster, making it more likely that your body will be ready for training the next day. Without carbohydrates consumed after a run, you are more prone to feeling weak, which may drag on to the next day, resulting in the inability to partake in training as planned.
Whole-grain bread or cereals should be your go-to foods when it comes to carbs. You can also consume whole grain pasta or rice. Oats are another favourite amongst athletes who know of the real value of this meal when it comes to recovery. Some runners actually swear by oats after a run. Oats contain all the essential nutrients and conatins plenty of carbohydrates to make them a wise choice as a post-run meal. Not just that, when combined with milk, you get a healthy dose of protein; with fruits and nuts added to your oats providing as essential sources of vitamins and minerals. Oats are a well-rounded recovery meal that provides the body with what you need.
Regardless, a quality carbohydrate is an absolute necessity. Whether it is bread, oats, pasta or rice, make sure you consume a healthy carbohydrate source to ensure you replenish those glycogen reserves.
Importance of Protein After a Run
Protein works to repair and build muscle. During a run, your muscles are worked and used to the point that they tear. Protein is essential in order to repair these muscles and rebuild them.
Proteins are the building blocks of muscles. They are what muscles are made of. The amino acids in protein will work to recover muscles, repair them and build them.
Protein is integral to ensure that you don’t experience muscle pain the next day. If you don’t eat protein after a run, your muscles will not have the nutrients they need to repair and recover. This would mean that you would be experiencing muscle pain the next day, which would hamper your training.
Proteins are an integral part of training and a good protein shake after a run will go a long way in helping you recover. It is probably one of the easiest means to acquire the necessary protein for muscle recovery.
Other than protein shakes, you can also eat protein bars which prove as an easy snack after a run. They contain a good amount of protein to jump-start the process of muscle recovery.
It is recommended that you consume protein 30 to 60 minutes after a long workout and will work wonders in recovery when paired with a carbohydrate. Yes, that is correct, you don’t want to simply eat protein or drink a protein shake alone. Simply consuming protein won’t allow for a speedy recovery and the energy units that are required for muscle repair won’t be available without carbohydrates. Hence, it is important that you understand the relationship between proteins and carbohydrates and consume them in a pair for the greatest benefits.
Other valuable sources of protein include eggs, which is an easy to prepare meal. You can also otherwise opt for fish, beef or chicken, which contain a good amount of protein per portion.
Pairing Carbohydrates with Proteins
Consuming proteins alone will not allow for muscle recovery. Similarly, consuming carbohydrates alone won’t facilitate muscle recovery. In order to attain the most well-rounded recovery after a run, you want to consume a good mix of both proteins and carbohydrates.
The carbohydrates will not only work to restore glycogen reserves but will also provide the integral energy to allow for muscle repair. Muscles cannot repair without protein, and protein cannot function without carbohydrates. This is the relationship between proteins and carbohydrates which is why they work well as a pair.
You could eat oats with milk, which provides a good carbohydrate and protein combination. Otherwise, bread with eggs also works well as a good source of both protein and carbohydrates. Pasta with chicken or beef and rice with fish are also good combinations of carbohydrates and protein that work well together.
Remember, you must pair a carbohydrate with a protein. Eating protein alone such as that through a protein shake isn’t sufficient. Protein shakes do contain about 3 to 4 grams of carbs per scoop. However, you should complement a protein shake with a more reliable carbohydrate source for faster recovery after a long run, which usually uses up most of the glycogen stores in your body.
Look to maintain a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3:1 for best recovery.
Importance of Fruits and Vegetables After A Run
During a run, you tend to deplete many of the essential vitamins and minerals. You use up some of these vitamins and minerals and some are lost through sweat. Hence, it is important that you replenish these lost vitamins and minerals through fruits and vegetables after a run.
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals. On top of that, they contain antioxidants which are valuable in fighting exercise-related stress. Oxidative stress is often brought about by exercise and eating foods that are rich in antioxidants help you fight the damaging effects of oxidative stress. The antioxidants work to fight the effects of free radicals in the body, thereby ensuring that you maintain good health.
The vitamins in fruits and vegetables are essential in maintaining a healthy immune system. Fruits that are loaded with vitamin C and vegetables that contain vitamin E, all help promote stronger immune health. The stronger of an immune system you have, the less likely you will fall ill, which could otherwise hamper training. You don’t want to catch a cold while you are preparing and training for a race. Falling ill could greatly hamper your athletic performance and fruits and vegetables work to prevent just that.
Bananas for example contain potassium. Potassium is used up during a run and is often lost as sweat. Low levels of potassium in the body can lead to fatigue and the general feeling of weakness. After a run, it is normal for your to feel weak. However, it is important that you eat foods that will help you recover. Eating a banana after a run is a great way to replenish potassium reserves in the body, which will help you recover much faster. Not just that, it will help you prepare for the next day, ensuring that you are at optimum health to continue training.
Here is a list of fruits that are considered extremely valuable for runners. Not only will these fruits help with recovery, but they will also help you boost performance – 10 Best Fruits for Runners: Fruits to Boost Performance.
Vegetables such as broccoli, sweet potatoes and spinach are all valuable for runners. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes also work really well as carbohydrate sources and contain essential nutrients which will help promote recovery after a run.
A combination of both fruits and vegetables on top of protein and carbohydrates is necessary to ensure a well-rounded meal that contains all the necessary nutrients to recover after a run. It is important that you consider the value of all these nutrient sources and not unbalance your meal by consuming only fruit, or only protein. The more balanced your post-run meal is, the better off you will be.
Importance of a Balanced Meal After A Run
During a run, you use up so many different nutrients that it isn’t possible to simply eat one thing and expect to restore these lost nutrients. You have to ensure that you eat a well-balanced meal that contains a host of nutrients that will work to aid recovery. You don’t want to eat junk food that won’t provide nutritional value, instead opt for highly nutritious foods that will work to repair and build your body for a stronger training session the following day.
Motivation is an important element during training and you should use your post-run meal to motivate yourself. Prepare a meal for yourself that you enjoy which includes fruits and vegetables that all benefit you. Add meats and proteins that you enjoy eating, which will provide your meal with a good balance of flavours. The more you enjoy your meal, the more likely you will be better motivated for the run the following day.
A well-balanced post-run meal is essential for recovery. You should look to consume 3 parts carbohydrates to 1 part protein, which provides a good ratio for recovery. This is why protein shakes do not provide us with a great recovery meal. Though these protein shakes contain wholesome amounts of protein, they do not contain the necessary carbohydrates to prove as a standalone meal. You must combine a protein shake with a reliable carbohydrate source to meet the ratio requirements of proteins to carbohydrates (1:3).
On top of fruits, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates, nuts are a great way to source essential fatty acids and further nutrients. You shouldn’t sidestep the value of nuts when it comes to your post-run meal. You could easily add some nuts into your bowl of oats, or even enjoy a handful of nuts after the meal as dessert. Nuts pack essential nutrients which are otherwise hard to source. They will prove as a great addition to your post-run meals and is a great way to top off a meal.
Importance of Fibre After a Run
Fibre is yet another nutrient that plays a crucial role in recovery. The fibre in your diet allows for better digestion of food and a healthier digestive system. Though the digestive system isn’t directly linked to running, the healthier of a digestive system you have, the better your performance will be.
A healthy digestive system allows for the effective absorption of nutrients. Not just that, the fibre in your diet will prevent constipation which can usually accompany a high protein and carbohydrate diet. A good amount of fibre through fruits and vegetables will prevent stomach issues from hampering training.
However, do remember. Though fibre is a great nutrient to include in your post-run meal, you don’t want to consume high fibre foods before a run. High fibre foods when consumed before a run could lead to indigestion due to physical activity and result in stomach issues. You don’t want stomach issues hampering your run.
Leave fibre for the post-run meal, where it works well to fine-tune your system for greater gain and recovery.
When Trying to Lose Weight
If you are trying to lose some weight as a runner, the amount of carbohydrates that you eat after a run should be monitored. Lowering the carbohydrate intake after a run is the best way to promote fat burning, however, do note, this could hamper recovery and performance.
It is a good idea to tackle weight loss during the early stages of training where you can dedicate time especially to the task at hand of losing weight. Once you complete the weight loss training sessions, you can switch to a more carbohydrate friendly diet, which will help you attain better recovery, thereby allowing for better results.
To understand exactly what you should do to lose weight as a runner and what you should be eating, we recommend that you read this article, What Should Runners Eat to Lose Weight: Weight Loss of Runners.
It is a good idea to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in the diet and monitor your carbohydrate intake. This will allow you to effectively burn more fat. The ratio of carbohydrates to protein will differ when you are trying to lose weight and you should look to cover a greater portion of your meal with protein as opposed to carbohydrates.
That being the case when on a low-carb diet, performance and recovery will be hampered. Hence, it is important you tackle weight loss as a separate subject and consider that well in advance of race day.
Types of Food Runners Should Avoid
When it comes to selecting foods, certain foods are simply best left avoided. These foods do not provide nutritional value and therefore prove as useless additions to your post-run meal. Sure, some of these foods may be a guilty pleasure for you, however, they do not contain sufficient nutritional value and will work to hamper performance in the long run.
Food that runner should look to avoid include,
- Processed Red Meat
- White Chocolate
- White Grains
- Sugary Cereal
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Fried Food
- Trans Fats
- Saturated Fats
- Full Fat Dairy
- Sugary Food
- Energy Drinks
To get a more comprehensive look into the types of food that you should look to avoid as a runner, we recommend that you read this article, Food Runners Should Avoid: 15 Foods That Are Bad For Runners.
When you consider the basics at play, the variations on the menu for your post-run meal are endless. You can eat grilled chicken with rice one day and an egg omelette with avocado spread on whole-grain toast another day.
The basics are what is important for you to understand. We didn’t go to provide you with meal combinations that you can try but rather opted to educate you on the balance of nutrients that will help you achieve better recovery.
After all, once you understand the importance of every nutrient in your post-run meal, you should be able to prepare your meals based on preference. If you prefer fish as opposed to chicken, that works similarly well as a protein source.
We hope after reading this word to word, you have a good idea of how you should be eating after a run to better aid recovery and performance. The better you recover, the better your performance will be. Do not forget the importance of a well-balanced meal and look to consume the meal as soon as possible. The sooner you eat after a run, the better.
Diet is a crucial part of training and when you understand the importance of diet to your performance, you will be well on your way to success as a runner.