Your refuel window
After your run, especially if it’s been a long run, it’s important to replenish your depleted energy as quickly as you can.
Studies have shown that after finishing your run, there is a 30 minute (ideally within 20 minutes) window of opportunity in which to maximise recovery and replenish glycogen/energy stores in the body, as this is the time when your muscles are most receptive to rebuilding these stores. Eating the right foods within this time can also help minimise muscle stiffness and soreness.
What to eat after your run
For short runs, such as ones under 5k, you may find you don’t require much replenishment, if any. Your glycogen stores are not likely to be empty at this time, but if you do feel hungry it may be a sign that you are low on carbohydrates, possibly because you didn’t fuel up properly before your run.
For harder short runs, glycogen stores will be diminished. After 20 minutes of HIGH INTENSITY exercise, they will be close to depletion. After these harder short runs you must replace the stores to ensure optimal recovery and replenishment for your next run. Aim for 1g/kg body weight of carbohydrate in your post-run snack.
Good foods to help replace glycogen stores and give your energy a boost following a short ‘intense’ run or one which has left you feeling hungry and depleted include snacks such as a banana, a handful of nuts or dried fruit, low fat yoghurt or even just a sports drink. Protein in this snack is also important for assisting with glycogen uptake into the muscles.
For longer runs, eating the right snacks is very important to help nourish your muscles and help your body recover faster. What you need is a snack which has a combination of carbs to replenish your energy and protein to rebuild muscle. Experts recommend eating snacks which have a carb-to-protein ratio of 4-to-1 (1 gram of protein to 4 grams of carbs). Seek out high GI foods – cornflakes with milk is an ideal option!
Some tasty and nutritious post-run snacks include:
Yip, hard to believe, but this childhood favourite is actually a firm favourite of runners too!
Not only does it feel like a treat after a long run, hydrate you and help cool you down, studies have also found that chocolate milk contains the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for post-run recovery.
Furthermore, the calcium in milk will help keep your bones strong and it is also a good option for people who find it difficult to eat solid foods after a run.
Mango, watermelon and blueberries are particularly good glycogen-replenishing carbs to help you recover faster. All of these fruits are packed with vitamin C, which helps repair muscle damage caused by running.
A good source of fibre, these fruits also help to make you feel full and stave off cravings. Add fruit to oatmeal, low fat Greek yoghurt or to smoothies to give your post-run snack an extra boost.
Smoothies made with fruit and low fat Greek yoghurt, coconut milk or almond milk are another delicious and nutritious option for your post-run recovery snack. They can give your recovery a jump-start by providing an ideal combination of carbs, protein, fibre, electrolytes and antioxidants.
With most fruit being quite fibrous, they can often take longer to digest, therefore not being of advantage to your 20 to 30 window of opportunity to replace glycogen store, unless they are physically broken down, which is where smoothies play their part!
Blitzing your fruit in a blender breaks down the cellular structure of the fibrous fruit, making them so much easier to digest. It also increases the surface area of the material so your digestive enzymes can extract the maximum amount of nutrients – go super smoothies!
Tasty Refueller Smoothie Recipes you can try:
An energy bar can be eaten quickly and easily and is a great post-run snack to help you recover. Try to look for bars with at least 40 grams of carbohydrates with moderate amounts of protein and fibre.
Choose bars containing dried fruits, honey or molasses as well as whole grains, where possible, and watch out for ones that are loaded with sugar!
Why not make your own, using these simple and delicious recipes:
- Muesli Bars
- Muesli & Peanut Butter Bars
- Cranberry Granola Bars
For a quick, nutritious snack, have peanut butter, which is a great source of protein, with energizing carbohydrates such as a banana, rice cakes or wholegrain bagel. Toasted wholegrain bread with almond butter is also a good option.
A peanut butter sandwich, smoothie or other post-run snack allows you to intake sustained energy that will carry you over until mealtime. It should also contain a portion of protein to support the ligaments, tendons and muscles. This is especially important if you are running on consecutive days and oily fish is a good option, as the Omega-3 oils can help control inflammation and therefore minimise muscle soreness the following day.
The 4:1 carb:protein ratio should be reflected throughout your overall day’s nutrition, as running places a greater load on the connective tissues (tendon and ligaments) than more fluid endurance sports such as cycling, where a diet can be more carbohydrate heavy.
Don’t forget to hydrate too!
Following your run, especially if it’s a long one, make sure you rehydrate with water or a sports drink. You can tell if you are sufficiently hydrated by the colour of your urine. Not a subject we like talking about but it’s a good indication as to whether you need to keep rehydrating. If it’s darker than a light lemonade colour then you are still dehydrated.
What’s your favourite post-run snack?