When you run, you lose a ton of fluids and nutrients that your body needs just to function properly. That means you need to somehow replenish what you’ve lost or you’re going to suffer the consequences. Sweating, for example, may lead to losing too many electrolytes, which can make you vulnerable to cramps. That’s why this article is going to be dedicated to the necessity of post-run snacks. At the end of it, you’ll find what we believe to be 7 of the best, most effective post-run snacks that you should add to your arsenal.
Is Eating After a Run Necessary?
It absolutely is. The most important thing to remember is that you need to consume two sources of energy in particular: carbohydrates and protein. Even more particularly, a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein is recommended.
Of course, the more willful people might assume that not eating after a run could be beneficial to their weight loss goals. They would be wrong. So let’s quickly go over what the state of your body is after a run, as well as what happens if not eating post-run – or forgetting to – becomes a habit for you.
After a run – especially a long run – your body uses up its energy stores.
The main source of energy the body uses is called glycogen. Simply put, glycogen is just excess glucose that the body doesn’t need, which gets stored in the liver and muscles for later use. Glucose itself is derived from the foods you eat – particularly, starches and sugars. Indeed, most of the carbohydrates you consume are converted into glucose, which, if you consume too much, in turn is converted into glycogen.
That stored glycogen is used whenever the blood runs low on glucose – when glucose levels drop well below 4 grams. This can happen if you haven’t eaten in a while or if you’re burning that glucose due to increased physical activity (like running).
Now, here’s the key. The body can store up to about 2,000 calories of glycogen; but that storage is quickly depleted during high-intensity exercises and endurance runs. If you run out completely, you hit what’s colloquially known as “runner’s wall” – you’ll feel unable to continue. That’s why lots of endurance runners use energy gels or carbo-load before long runs.
The negative effects of not eating after running
- Low blood sugar, first of all, will leave you feeling sluggish and tired. You can even get disoriented and foggy, potentially harming your mental health.
- Secondly, not replenishing your energy stores can leave you vulnerable to overuse injuries like peroneal tendonitis.
- Third, when you work out your muscles, or run for extended periods, you’re essentially damaging your muscles and creating microtears. These microtears require protein to repair.
- The fourth point is one we’ve already mentioned: electrolytes. When you run, you sweat; when you sweat, you lose electrolytes like salt, calcium, and potassium. Without these, hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and dehydration will in set in very quickly, potentially causing you to pass out.
Best Post-Run Snacks
We’re going to keep this list as simple as possible. The reason? Because that’s the most effective. Most of the items on the list you probably already have – and if you don’t, their cheap and readily available. These are also in no particular order, so keep that in mind. You can even mix and match to your taste and nutrient needs.
1) Chicken or turkey sandwich – Perfect for a protein and carb boost.
2) Bananas – Remember our warning about electrolytes? Bananas are chock-full of potassium.
3) Salty Pretzels – Again, when you sweat, you expunge salt from your body. This will help remedy that.
4) Cereal and Milk – Easy to prepare and available anywhere; a perfect source of protein, carbs, and vitamins.
5) Fruit Smoothie made with Milk – Calcium, vitamins, fiber, and carbs. What else is there to say?
6) Peanut Butter Sandwich – That’s right. Your childhood favorite is a great source of protein and carbs.
7) Granola Bars – It’s better to make them at home if possible because store-bought is filled with sugar
Final Thoughts on Post-Run Snacks
While this article focused heavily on solids, the most important aspect of post-run recovery is actually liquid replenishment. Obviously, when you sweat you expunge more than just electrolytes – you expunge hydration too! So the first thing you need to do post-run is drink an ample amount of water. Or if you want to hit two birds with one stone, opt for an energy drink for both hydration as well as elecotrolyte replenishment.
And there you have it, everything you need to know about post-run snacking.
Questions, concerns? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.