When you’ve finished a run it’s tempting to simply crash on the sofa with a pack of biscuits! However, recovery nutrition is just as important as performance nutrition and good food choices can even help to maximise the adaptations that you get from a training stimulus. Yes, that’s right, selecting the right snack might actually make you faster!
Within the first few hours after running, your highest priorities in terms of recovery are initiating muscle repair and replenishing your muscle glycogen stores, so post-run refuelling is crucial if you want to enhance recovery, particularly if you plan on running again the following day.
The window immediately post-exercise is when your body is most able to absorb nutrients which are critical for the body to repair and regenerate itself. You should aim to consume a snack containing a blend of carbohydrate and protein within 15-30 minutes of finishing your exercise and then a proper meal within two hours.
The window immediately post-exercise is when your body is most able to absorb nutrients which are critical for the body to repair and regenerate itself.
The ideal post-run snack should contain a combo of fast release carbohydrate and easily digestible protein in a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. If you’ve just finished a hard running workout then the recommended guidelines are to aim to consume 1-1.2g per kilogram of bodyweight of carbs along with 0.25g per kilogram of bodyweight of protein. With that in mind, check out these top post-run snacks for fast refuelling.
Nuts & dried fruit
Double Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes famously used nuts and dried fruit as a trackside snack to optimise her recovery when she won bothher titles in Athens. Nuts provide an excellent source of protein and are high in vitamin E which helps to prevent free-radical damage to muscles. Their high omega 3 content also helps to reduce inflammation. Yes, they are high in fat but it is good (unsaturated) fat, which is thought to help to reduce fatigue in athletes.
Dried fruit is an excellent source of fast releasing carbohydrate, which will help to replenish your muscle glycogen stores. The beauty of this snack is that it’s easy to eat on the go and you can use any combination of nuts and dried fruit that you fancy.
Toast with nut butter
Toast is a simple yet staple runner’s snack. There are of course a huge range of breads available but opt for wholegrain or sourdough varieties over heavily processed breads where possible.
Top your toast with nut butter – peanut, cashew or almond, to hit your protein requirements and for the added bonus of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin E. Two pieces of wholegrain toast with peanut butter provides 40g of carbohydrate and 12g of protein making it a great post-run snack.
Greek yogurt & fruit
Greek yogurt is a champion recovery food. It has a high protein content, typically containing twice as much protein as normal yogurt and there are fat-free versions available too.
Mix it with fruit and a drizzle of honey and top with some cereal or granola for a delicious post-run snack. Plain Greek yoghurt while high in protein is low in carbs, but fruit flavoured Greek Yoghurt can be a way of consuming additional carbohydrate along with your protein hit.
Hummus and rice cakes
Hummus is a snack that has become increasingly popular over the last few years and there’s a good reason for that - it’s pretty nutritious! Hummus is high in protein, making it a good recovery choice for runners.
It also provides a good source of vitamins and minerals including Folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin, Niacin, Phosphorous, Magnesium and Iron. There are plenty of flavours available too, meaning that you will never get bored! Rice cakes provide an excellent source of easily digestible, fast releasing carbohydrate, making them the perfect post-run snack for runners.
Appetite can sometimes be suppressed after running, particularly if you’ve just finished a hard workout. However, it’s still crucial to replace vital nutrients quickly. In this instance a recovery drink is a great choice. Chocolate milk makes a tasty and surprisingly nutritious post-run treat. Milk contains natural whey protein, which is an isolated milk protein. This means that it is readily digestible and is absorbed into the body quickly, allowing for a faster recovery from exercise.
In fact studies have shown that consuming chocolate milk post exercise can increase protein synthesis (the repair and rebuilding of muscle) for several hours afterwards. 500ml of chocolate milk typically contains 50g of carbohydrate and 20g of protein, making it an excellent post-run choice. It’s also a great source of minerals and electrolytes so it’s ideal for rehydrating post run too.