Running is one of the most popular and most effective types of cardio. There are so many variations out there of how to structure a proper cardio routine for maximum success. But what about nutrition? What to eat after a run? And what else should you know when it comes to nutrition & diet as a runner? Let’s discuss these questions and many more in this step-by-step guide on cardio and nutrition – updated for 2020.
When finishing a heavy cardio session such as running, your body needs a lot of glycogen to be able to perform at a high level. Glycogen can be defined as the fuel of your body’s activity.
Additionally, when sweating during your run, your body will lose minerals such as sodium and potassium, along with losing fluid. And finally, working out will break down muscle cells & fibers in your body that need to be repaired.
These are the main tasks your body has to make sure after a run – repairing and refueling all the issues mentioned above. So, what to eat after a run?
Running & Nutrition
Before we talk about what to eat after a run, let’s summarize in short what you have to eat before and during the run to complete the nutrition task of running.
What To Eat Before A Run
It’s important to properly prepare for a run which also includes pre-workout nutrition. Consume some foods that are low in fat, high in carbs and moderate/high in protein around three hours before your run. This way you will prevent indigestion, fatigue or any kind of stomach discomfort during your running activity.
Foods to eat/drink:
- Peanut butter
- Sports drink
- Lean Meat
- 500-700 ml of water for hydration
Foods to avoid:
- Foods high in saturated fats (red meat, bacon, sausages etc.)
- Dairy products (yoghurt, cheese, milk etc.)
What To Eat During A Run
Try to avoid eating anything during your race because it might distract you from reaching your best performance level. But if you feel like you need a snack during your run, grab an energy bar, energy gel, bananas or similar foods for fueling your body with carbohydrates.
More importantly, make sure to stay hydrated during your run. While running, you are losing water through breathing and sweating, and you can prevent dehydration by:
- Drinking 300-600 ml of water around 15 minutes before your run
- Drinking 150-250 ml of water at regular intervals during your run. Take small sip while running to not distract yourself from reaching a good level of running.
What To Eat After A Run
Now it’s time to get deeper into the question of what to eat after a run. Let’s answer this question step-by-step so we make sure to cover everything that you need to know.
Hydration After A Run
Our bodies are made primarily of water and we are losing high amounts of water during our run. That means we need to fuel our body with water constantly to make sure we are able to perform all activities our body needs to perform.
The mistake a lot of people tend to make is to only drink when they are thirsty. Being thirsty is a sign of already having too low amounts of water in your body so you have to drink enough water before you are thirsty. That’s why we also covered the nutrition before and during your run as these are very important too.
Remember to rehydrate immediately after your run to fuel your body with all essential ingredients it needs to perform properly.
Check this video for more information on hydration.
Nutrition Timing After A Run
Before we finally talk about what to eat after a run, let’s talk about nutrition timing.
There are two important time zones we have to cover here to fully recover immediately after our run.
- 20-30 minutes after a run:
This is the most important time window after your workout. This is the time you should fuel your body again to replenish your muscle glycogen stores and to rehydrate as your fuels are empty from your activity. High carbohydrates and medium to high protein is needed for that step combined with some electrolyte-enriched water.
- 45-90 minutes after a run:
After replenishing your muscle glycogen stores, your body can start repairing muscle and building new muscle tissue. High quality foods that are high in protein are recommended here and foods that are high in amino acids such as glutamine, lysine, arginine and BCAA.
What To Eat After A Run – Best Foods
Now, let’s talk about foods and drinks. You will learn what to eat after a run and what to drink after a run.
One thing to keep in mind:
All information you are receiving here is taken as a general recommendation. Please consult a doctor to let him check your personal needs and if there are any issues you are facing when it comes to nutrition (allergies etc.).
Now, as we’ve made that clear, let’s move on.
Protein is one of the three macros (learn more about macros in our in-depth guide) your body needs constantly to replenish muscle and build new muscle tissue.
As a general guideline, it’s recommended by the International Society of Sports Nutrition that you aim for 0.14 to 0.23 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight after your run.
- Jim weighs 170 pounds. That means Jim should aim for 24-39 grams of protein after his workout/run.
You can consume some of the following foods to reach this amount of protein:
- 3 ounces lean beef = 21 g protein
- 2 large eggs = 12 g protein
- 3 ounces of chicken or turkey breast = 21 g protein
- 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese or nonfat Greek yogurt = 14 g protein
- 3 ounces salmon = 21 g protein
The second important macro of what to eat after a run is the amount of carbs you consume. Carbs are mainly consumed for replenishing your energy and maintaining high energy levels for all activities.
It’s recommended to consume 2-3 grams of carbs for every gram of protein you are consuming. If you are consuming 15 grams of protein after your run, you should add 30-45 grams of carbs or even more.
You can consume some of the following foods to reach this amount of carbohydrates:
- Fruit (varies)
- 1 cup brown rice = 45 g carbs
- 1 cup cooked whole-grain pasta = 40 g carbs
- 1-2 slices whole-wheat bread = 12 g carbs
- Vegetables (varies)
- 1 large sweet potato = 37 g carbs
Before we finally reveal the lists of what to eat after a run, let’s talk about some common mistakes you want to avoid:
Waiting For Too Long
Your body needs to be fueled with the right foods and drinks immediately (within 30-45 minutes) after a heavy workout session. Don’t wait for too long for your first post-workout meal.
Consuming Too Much Protein
Protein is very important but that doesn’t mean you should focus on protein only. Follow our recommendations outlined above and you will consume more than enough protein.
Alcohol hurts your body and your recovery in many different ways. There are some researches showing that alcohol can prevent your body’s protein from rebuilding and repairing muscles.
The List Of Best Foods
Now, as we’ve made the most important things clear to you, we’re ready to check a list of what to eat after a run.
Toast With Peanut Butter
Consume a piece of whole grain bread and add a tablespoon of peanut butter to it. This is a tasty way to consume carbs and protein in a 4-to-1 ratio for muscle glycogen replenishment.
Trail mix (high fruit-to-nut ratio)
Grab a trail mix high in fruits and lower in nuts. That’s another way for eating somewhere close to a 4-to-1 ratio.
Turmeric is one of the healthy foods providing your body with antioxidants which fight inflammation. This will result in maintaining good overall health.
Fruits & Vegetables
Another good source of antioxidants are fresh fruits and vegetables. Working out with exercises such as running will reduce glutamine in your blood and fruits & vegetables are high in glutamine which will fill your fuels up again.
Beans & Lentils
These are both great ways of refueling your protein levels. As plant-based proteins, they’re very healthy too.
Quinoa is a delicious, gluten-free food that’s giving your body 9 grams of protein per cup once cooked. Additionally, it takes only 15 minutes to cook which makes it very time effective.
Another high-protein food which is very delicious. And it can be prepared in many different & tasty ways.
Nuts are high in healthy fats and protein. Consuming a handful of nuts will help your body creating hormones to strengthen your bones and overall body composition.
This is one more food which is high in protein to serve your body with the macros it needs. So, if you want to know what to eat after a run, Greek yogurt is one of the best foods to consume as there are a lot of variations to prepare a nice post-workout meal.
Oats are very high in carbs, so you will replenish depleted energy stores immediately and fill your stomach to feel full for a longer time. This will also support your weight loss goals.
Dark fruits such as tart cherries contain antioxidants which will delay the onset of muscle soreness.
Avocado is one of the new superfoods for athletes. Combine the healthy fats of avocado with the whole grains from toast and add a little amount of salt to create one of the best post-workout meals available.
Not everybody likes the taste of cottage cheese, but the ingredients are very good. It contains a lot of protein and calcium which is great for fast recovery.
Tofu contains all nine amino acids and therefore high amounts of protein. Additionally, it’s full of iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium which makes it another great and healthy food.
Eggs can be served in many different variations (scrambled, cooked etc.) and contains high amounts of protein and healthy fats. Delicious, healthy, and awesome!
Similar to eggs, salmon contains high amounts of protein and healthy fats. Additionally, salmon serves omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which strengthens your bones and helps prevent osteoporosis.
Fish in general is very healthy. Salty sardines – similar to salmon – are an excellent source of protein and bone-boosting fatty acids. Additionally, sardines deliver essential vitamins like B12.
This is another convenient way of reaching your protein and carbs target. High-quality whey is low in sugar which makes it another great source on our list of what to eat after a run.
Ginger has more benefits than we may think of. One of the benefits is reducing inflammation, which makes it a great recovery drink.
One glass of milk gives your body around 10 grams of protein, plus calcium and Vitamin D for strengthening your bones.
High in carbs, bananas refill your energy fuels in terms of carbs very quickly after working out. It will also help you reduce muscle cramping.
Broccoli is one of the best vegetables out there as it’s a great source of calcium, zinc, Vitamin K, magnesium and phosphorus. These ingredients help you again to strengthen your bones and increasing your overall health.
Chocolate with at least 70% of coca will help you reduce inflammation, making it a great snack for your body.
This drink contains Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene and fuels your carbohydrate stores. So, if you want to have a post-workout drink instead of food, pineapple juice is your way to go.
Lean beef is low in fat and high in protein & iron. You shouldn’t consume red meat every day, but if you do, lean beef is one of the best foods out there.
This is a great source of carbs, potassium, fiber and iron which make sweet potatoes another awesome food on our list of what to eat after a run.
Tomatoes are one of the few fruits containing lycopene, which reduces your risk of osteoporosis.
Similar to tomatoes, watermelons contain lycopene, which reduces your risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, watermelons are made of 90% pure water which also make them a good source for rehydration.
Do you want to learn more about some of these foods and their nutrients in general? Check our detailed guide on protein shakes and what you have to know about nutrition.
The Bottom Line
Running is one of the best types of cardiovascular exercise to support your weight loss and fitness goals.
As nutrition is very important in general, it’s no secret that you have to get your nutrition right when it comes to what to eat after a run – additionally with nutrition before and during your workouts.
Focus on high carbs and high protein foods and you will be one step ahead to reach your fitness goals. Your body will use huge amounts of protein and carbs for maintaining high energy levels during your activities and therefore you have to fuel your body constantly.
As this guide is all about what to eat after a run which makes it a cardio & nutrition guide, you should check some more guides related to these topics.
Instead of running, did you ever consider adding sprinting routines to your running schedule? Check here how you can upgrade your running activity with sprinting workouts.
Are you only performing cardio routines or also weight training sessions? If you are also lifting weights, check our in-depth guide on free weights vs machines – what is better for you?!
If you are training for a competition such as triathlon, marathon or Ironman, you definitely want to check out our step-by-step 7-week training plan for being fully prepared for your next huge competition.
Now It’s Your Turn
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Get out there, crush your fitness goals and let’s make 2020 your best year ever!
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