Fueling Your Runs {The After}

Why is eating after a hard workout important?

Done with your long run? While your appetite may be low, and it’s tempting to just shower and crash on the couch, getting in some quality protein and carbohydrate needs to be on the top of your to-do list (well, maybe after that shower). Accelerating your recovery through proper nutrition is crucial after a hard workout; you already know that if you skip too many training runs you probably aren’t going to meet your race goals, and the same applies to missing too many recovery windows for nutrition.  We all want our hard work to pay off, but restricting protein after a long run limits your body’s ability repair and build more muscle–and a stronger body = a stronger runner. 


How much protein?

If you’re running more than 25 miles a week, you count as an endurance athlete and need to eat for recovery purposes (although eating a little protein and carbohydrate after any workout you felt was strenuous is beneficial). You don’t necessarily need to supplement extra protein in your diet, as long as you are consuming 10-15% of your daily calories from protein. Just make sure to eat some of that protein after exercise, preferably within 30-45 minutes, and at least within two hours for maximum recovery benefits. The recommended ratio of carbs to protein is in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio, and there is no additional benefit for muscle recovery by consuming more than 20 grams of protein. Any excess protein your body doesn’t need for muscle recovery will get used for energy or stored as fat.


High quality protein like eggs, lean meat, fish, whey, or low-fat dairy are the best at promoting muscle synthesis, and though research shows that plant-based proteins aren’t as good at stimulating protein synthesis, consuming soy, hemp, or pea protein all still have benefits–so don’t fret my vegetarian and vegan friends. Quinoa is also emerging as a great option because its amino acid profile is even better than soy and very similar to milk.


Not hungry?

Liquids may be easier to get down if you have a decreased appetite or are dehydrated.   Avoid sipping on soft drinks because they only contain fructose as a carbohydrate source, and most fructose skips over those starving muscle cells and gets stored in your liver–and soda gets a big fat F in my dietitian grade book for lack of any nutrition. Try sipping on a smoothie or low-fat chocolate milk instead. Your body will be grateful.


Recovery Foods

Need some help thinking outside the whey protein box? All the below food options are in the recommended ratio of carbs to protein (or pretty dang close).

  • Low-fat chocolate milk*
  • 1 Egg and whole wheat toast with 1 Tbsp jam
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa with 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 cup low-fat milk*
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter (no sugar added) & banana sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Clif bar, assorted flavors
  • Flavored Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit
  • High protein cereal like Kashi GOLEAN®
  • 3-4 graham crackers and 1 cup low-fat milk*
  • Smoothies with 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk* or 6 oz Greek yogurt and 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen fruit.

Check out the Very Cherry Banana Smoothie below.

*Cow’s milk can be substituted with non-dairy milk, but non-dairy options should contain at least 5 grams of protein per serving.




{Very Cherry Banana Smoothie}

Cherries contain strong antioxidants called anthocyanins (what makes cherries bright red). Studies suggest cherries have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce muscle inflammation after running.


Servings: 1



6 oz Greek yogurt, black cherry (I used Chobani)

1 large banana

1/2 cup frozen tart cherries

6-8 ice cubes

1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)



1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.


Nutrition info: 290 calories, 16 g protein, 61 g carb, 0.5 g fat, 4.5 g fiber





Make sure and check out my posts on nutrition before and during your runs: Fueling Your Runs {The Before} and Fueling Your Runs {The During}


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