What to Eat After a Run and Why You Should | Rockay

Here's What to Eat After Running and Why

What to eat after a run–that is the question.

After a run, your muscles ache, you’re breathless, and your body desires something to replenish its reserves. Anyone’s who has been through the agony knows that first drink of water or that first bite of food after a workout is as good as any runner’s high. It’s tempting to convince yourself that you earned yourself the right to eat anything you want–earned meals are the best meals after all.

I am sorry to tell you, however, that steak will not be on the menu for your post-run meals. Even a steak can be healthy for you at the right size, but you can’t have it with any kind of buttery sauce.

Dieting is an important factor in a runner’s life. You don’t want to run for an hour every day, exhausting yourself and pushing your limits just to throw it all away immediately by eating a pound of chocolate-dipped bacon topped with fried chicken skin and sea salt. A proper diet will replenish your reserves without losing whatever gains you made during the run.

To outsiders, however, dieting has a certain stigma. Most people see dieting as a primary reason not to get in shape. Nobody likes abnegation or eating bland or awful-tasting foods.

But things change, and health food is a great example of things changing for the better. Here, we’re going to give you meals to bolster your resolve, fill your stomach, and even satisfy.

You’ll probably still miss having a porterhouse, though. Who wouldn’t?

What to Eat Before a Run

Let’s not put the cart before the horse. There are misconceptions about eating before a run, especially if you’re running in the morning before going to work. Runners will often skip eating completely and have lunch be their first meal of the day. That’s a mistake. The body will take this lack of food as a potential threat. When you eat lunch, then, the body will hold on to more of it, thinking that it needs to do more with less. It will make weight loss more difficult and may negate the work you did in your early morning run.

That said, running on an empty stomach is a bad idea as well. The body needs to have reserves to burn. It has to draw resources and strength from something. You’ll never get far on an empty stomach.

However, like any and all dieting, it’s about portion control.

You’ll want to carb up before a run while being mindful not to overdo it and accidentally carbo-load. Protein-centric foods like peanut butter, eggs, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese are helpful as well. Fruits and vegetables are evergreen foods for dieting and exercise. Think about a banana or fruit smoothie. Maybe a parfait with low-fat milk. You can even have half a muffin (preferably whole wheat). Give yourself about 45 minutes to digest before going out on your run.

Of course, if you’re running later in the day, you might end up having a larger meal beforehand. In the case of larger meals, you’ll want to wait 2 or 3 hours before running to allow for digestion and for your body to appropriately apply the nutrients you’ve provided it.

Hydration After Running

Hydration is both overlooked and misunderstood, even by runners. Despite the fact our bodies are made primarily of water, we are in constant need of more water to recharge ourselves and fuel our activities throughout the day.

It’s also important to hydrate even when we aren’t thirsty. This does not include drinking vast quantities of coffee, despite water being an important element to that otherwise perfect substance. Of course, it is incumbent on runners to drink more water than non-runners throughout the day.

It is suggested that runners drink between 8 and 16 oz of water about an hour before a run. Some even drink another 4 oz right before setting foot to pavement. Drinking water during the run isn’t a bad idea either.

You might also be concerned about depleted electrolytes. Gatorades ads over the last 25 years have not only been effective, but they’ve also made it so that we can all spell the word correctly. Contrary to popular belief, most runners do not usually have to worry about their electrolyte levels. Generally, it’s long-distance runners who should worry about their electrolyte levels. The occasional Gatorade or electrolyte tablets will help you out.

Finally, remember to rehydrate as quickly as possible once the run is over. Winter runs will force you to expend more oxygen and apply more effort. Summer runs will dehydrate you quickly. Drink. Your. Water.  

For more on hydration, check out the video below.

What to Eat After Running For Immediate Consumption

As we said, it’s incredibly important to immediately replenish yourself after a run. Especially during the summer, you’ll work up an appetite. Thankfully, you have options other than just water, Nuun tablets, and Gatorade in that case. If you’re on the go even after your run (perhaps back to your place to get ready for work), you may not have enough time to properly prepare a meal. As we mentioned before almond or peanut butter, eggs, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese are quick, helpful ways of boosting you back up. Think about fruits like apples and bananas or quick snacks like oats, cereal, oatmeal, trail mix (with more fruits than nuts), walnuts or cashews, and baby carrots or pita with hummus.

Oatmeal is particularly useful. It provides a great combination of protein and carbohydrates; also high in fiber and will keep you regular. However, many people drown it in syrup. All that sugar is too costly on the body. Prepare the oatmeal as is and use fruit to garnish it and give it flavor. A little bit of cinnamon goes a long way, as well.  

For those of you who need to drive to work and don’t have two hands available, consider a liquid meal. No, we don’t mean the old vodka-in-the-morning-coffee trick, fun as that is. Instead, you can have 12 ounces of chocolate milk, a protein shake, or a fruit smoothie. Of course, you have to be careful of the size of those smoothies. Overdoing it can be dangerous. That’s probably why your mind immediately went to daytime drinking when we mentioned “liquid meals.” Anyway, see below for some smoothie recipes.

A Few Smoothie Recipes

Even with healthy food, there is a necessary degree of moderation. Just because fruits are healthy, it doesn’t mean you should load up on them. Replenishing your body means replacing what was lost, not undoing your work. You’ll notice that the examples usually only call for, say, 1 banana. You can reasonably add in a second (especially if you want to flavor-bash like apples and oranges, bananas and blueberries, etc.), but be watchful of any noticeable weight gain or a loss of physical achievements over time.

The Blueberry Blast: Since they are rather tart, blueberries usually need to be served with something; they’re not a standalone fruit. Here, the tart blueberry is paired with the sweet peach. Never a bad idea. Especially if, on a cheat day, you can track down a blueberry peach pie. It’s wonderful.

  • Several ice cubes
  • 1 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen peaches
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 dozen raw almonds
  • ¼ cup of milk (the type of milk is up to you; feel free to add more milk depending on your preferred smoothie consistency)

The Elvis Presley: Sadly, nothing here is fried, so we can’t guarantee the King would approve, but it’s still a damn fine smoothie.  

  • Several ice cubes
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (add a little more depending on your preferred consistency and taste)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup of milk (the type of milk is up to you; feel free to add more milk depending on your preferred smoothie consistency)

The American Dream: No, this is not a reference to Dusty Rhodes. At least not directly.

  • Several ice cubes
  • 1 apple (peeling is optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
  • ½ cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup of milk or water

Pineapple Passion: Runner’s World highly recommends this recipe. They say it’s like “drinking ice cream.” Just don’t have it with pizza. They don’t go together.

  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 1 cup of frozen pineapple
  • Blend until the consistency is smooth

Green Apple Coconut Cantaloupe Smoothie: Want to get a little weird? This recipe from GreenBlender will do it for you. It mixes fruits, vegetables and camu camu, which sounds like a small island in the South Pacific where rich people vacation.

  • Several ice cubes
  • 1 cup of peeled cantaloupe
  • 1 pear
  • 1.5 ounces of baby spinach
  • ½ tablespoon of camu camu
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut flakes
  • 1 cup of coconut water

The Green Machine Smoothie: Dick’s Sporting Goods has lauded this smoothie as a perfect recipe for runners.

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 15-20 raw almonds
  • 2-3 cups chopped kale (be careful with kale; there have been news reports lately about tainted supplies)
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1-2 cups of mixed frozen berries  

Of course, the Internet abounds in all types of smoothie recipes, including many that make use of avocados, dark chocolate, and hemp seeds. I love hemp. Well, for certain things. Anyway, if you have enough time to prepare a meal and looking to have a heartier post-run meal, we have you covered.

What Are Good Snacks to Eat After Running

Some of the quick foods we mentioned before–oats, trail mix, hummus and the like–can also be a fun midday snack when you’re feeling peckish. You can also have a granola bar, salted pretzels, or a good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Carbs and Proteins

In general, you’ll want to keep a 2:1 carb to protein ratio for your post-run meals. And, of course, as we mentioned earlier, even though carbs are good, be careful not to carbo-load. Turkey sandwiches on whole wheat or white bread toast is a great way to build yourself back up again.

Pasta and meatballs too (preferably whole wheat pasta). A baked potato can be good for you too, but keep it plain. No salt, cheese, butter, or anything else that will make it taste good.

If you’re in New York, pick up a bagel. If you’re not in New York, I’m sorry to tell you that you never had a real bagel before. That said, whatever you call a bagel does technically count. Try that.

Baked and grilled dark-meat chicken make for healthy choices. So does seafood like salmon. Have any of these with a side of rice or quinoa and you’re eating heartily but not dangerously.

As for red meat, well, it’s still possible. A burger for dinner won’t kill you but understand portion control. When it comes to meats (including chicken and seafood), you’ll want to have a serving of roughly 3 ounces (about the size of your palm). In the case of red meat–burgers, steaks, etc.–make sure the cut is as lean as possible.

A Few Quick Recipes

Beef, chicken and seafood will fill you up, even in the 3 ounces level, especially if you have some greens or a side of rice or quinoa to go with it. We’re going to give you a small sampling of potential meals that are both delicious and healthy. Vegetarian options are also included!

Slow-Cooked Beef Burritos with Green Chiles: This recipe, found on TasteOfHome.com, is spicy, delicious, but admittedly time-consuming. If you aren’t into the time-intensive slow-cooking method, you can exchange it for your preferred red meat variation.

Baked Salmon in Foil: This extremely easy dinner is suggested by WellPlated.com. Your salmon is baked in aluminum foil to lock in the garnished flavors of lemon, rosemary, butter, or any of your preferred spices. The entire meal takes all of 10 minutes to prepare.

Baked Chicken Parmesan: Yes, Italian food is traditionally very heavy. It’s delicious, but it can do damage. This recipe from Primaverakitchen.com takes the traditional recipes and lightens it up a bit. Yes, you’re still getting chicken parm, but it’s easier on your health.

Butternut Squash and Pea Risotto with Parmesan and Pine Nuts: This is the first of our 3 vegetarian options. Let it not be said that I’m unfair. This recipe from myfitnesspal is quite good and is quickly prepared, but it does have a long ingredient list. It is carbohydrate heavy without being overwhelming and can be easily used as a pre- or post-workout meal.

Black Bean and Vegetable Curry with Almonds: Also from myfitnesspal, this dish perfectly strikes the carb and protein balance you’ll need to regain your strength after a run and help those muscles recover. While also ingredient-heavy, this dinner will only take about 10 minutes to cook once you have everything together.   

Loaded Vegetarian Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: SassySpoon’s stuffed sweet potato almost looks like something from Outback Steakhouse. It also might take a little while to prepare (about 20 minutes, all told). However, you are going to experience a great array of taste. The ingredients include cilantro, smoked paprika, and sour cream. You won’t be bored here.

Image result for running nutrition 1000x1000

Of course, runner’s lives get hectic. While we’re sure the trail mix is the path of least resistance, you can still have elegant meals despite balancing work, running, and diet. We suggest one big grocery shopping run a week and prepare as much as possible over the weekend before your next cycle of runs begins. Tupperware is a lifesaver.

We’re also hoping that you see that despite the necessity of eating healthy you don’t have to eat blandly. As we said before, the internet abounds in all sorts of recipes and variations to keep you healthy and satisfied.

Good luck!

Sources

  1. Business Insider
  2. US News
  3. Runners World
  4. My Vega
  5. News 18
  6. Activ
  7. Run Eat Repeat
  8. Greatist
  9. Dicks Sporting Goods
  10. Runners World, Smoothie Recipes
  11. Green Blender
  12. Taste of Home
  13. Well Plated
  14. Primavera Kitchen
  15. My Fitness Pal
  16. A Sassy Spoon

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