Good nutrition is essential for both a healthy body and peak physical performance.
Without the right food, the body doesn’t have good fuel to burn during exercise. And without the right fuel, your muscles can’t repair themselves properly post-exercise.
But what is the right food to eat after a run or workout? How much should you eat and how quickly should you eat after you finish?
Well, the answer is….like always….it depends. It depends on the type of workout you just completed, the intensity and duration and your own personal body needs.
But the general rule for maintaining the body (not weight loss) and recovering well is that whatever you take out of the body (fuel and fluids) you need to put back in.
Foods to refuel
The three essential macronutrients the body needs for survival are carbohydrates, fat and protein. The body generally likes to burn carbohydrates for energy. It’s an easy, fast and efficient fuel. But if it doesn’t have enough carbohydrates it will burn fat (slightly less efficient). Protein is usually saved for repairing muscles that were broken down and damaged during exercise. Your body will generally only use protein as an energy source if you’re depleted in all other stores. Hint: If you’re using protein as an energy source you’re stealing from your muscles; not good.
So if the body is mostly burning carbohydrates and we know protein helps to rebuild muscle, it’s essential that these two are included in your post-workout meal or snack.
There are no hard and fast rules about how much of each nutrient is ideal to eat, it will all depend on the intensity and duration of your workout. If you’ve done a particularly hard workout or long run, you may even want to consider adding in fat to top up the stores.
Top post-run snacks include:
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Banana, yoghurt and cinnamon
- Protein smoothie or shake
- Cut veggies and hummus dip
- Poached eggs on toast
- Protein bars and balls. Homemade is best so you avoid the artificial crap.
Timing your recovery meal
Studies suggest that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (carbohydrate) stores within the first 30-minutes after exercise. The quicker you can start the rebuilding process the less time your muscles will be sore and fatigued.
The easiest way to cater for this is to have a ready-made snack or protein shake when you’ve finished. Download my FREE e-book ‘Eat & Run’ with my top 7 snacks for runners + recipes to try at home.
Recovery and rehydration
During a high-intensity workout, the body will sweat. When you sweat, you lose fluid as well as essential minerals such as sodium and potassium. The more you sweat the more you have to put back in. So if you’ve just finished a long run, you’ll need to drink more than if you just finished a restorative yoga class. Listen to your body. Headaches, muscle cramping and dark yellow urine is a sign you need to drink more.
Filtered water is king and coconut water is also great, it contains natural fruit sugars, sodium and potassium. I personally stay away from supermarket sports drinks, they’re generally super high in sugar, artificial colourings and flavours.
Listen to your body
But the smartest thing you can do post-run or workout is to listen to your body and refuel and hydrate accordingly. Every run will be different. It could be the temperature, intensity, duration, whether you’re fighting a common cold or virus or simply didn’t sleep well the night before; listen in, respond and you’ll ultimately perform better.
Looking for more? Download my FREE e-book ‘Eat &Run’ – 7 healthy running snacks to keep you energised.