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12 Best Recovery Foods For Runners



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The type of food you consume after a long, intense run greatly influences your recovery and your ability to run vigorously the following day.

Tommy Rodgers, a registered dietitian and coach from North Carolina, explains the importance of eating properly after enduring exercise for a couple of reasons. One of these reasons, according to him, is the need to restore your glycogen stores.

To ensure that you are able to train vigorously on consecutive days, it is important to replenish what your body has lost since the amount it can store is limited, especially when compared to fat stores. Another reason to replenish is to minimize muscle breakdown, as demanding exercises that deplete glycogen and require repetitive muscle contractions can lead to muscle teardown, according to Rodgers.

To minimize damage and initiate the rebuilding process, it is important to ensure that your body receives both carbohydrates and protein following a strenuous activity.

Determining how much you should eat and when to consume a post-run snack may require some additional consideration. For light workouts, consuming a small snack or your usual meal within an hour after exercise is sufficient. However, if the workout was particularly intense or tiring, it is important to prioritize recovery, according to Pip Taylor, a professional triathlete and registered dietitian.

However, she advises athletes against excessively obsessing over counting grams.

These excellent choices will aid in preparing your body for tomorrow’s exertion.

1. Avocado on toast

After her workout, Elyse Kopecky, a chef, nutritionist, and former NCAA runner, frequently tops whole-grain bread with mashed avocado.

She recommends adding a small amount of sea salt to compensate for the lost sodium and other minerals. Additionally, she notes that avocados are a good source of potassium, which is depleted when we sweat. Moreover, eight studies have shown that avocados’ monounsaturated fats are beneficial for improving cardiovascular health. To further increase protein intake, one can add a fried egg on top of their open-faced sandwich.

2. Cottage cheese with fruit

Marni Sumbal, a coach and board-certified sports dietitian in South Carolina, advises her athletes to divide their recovery meals into two parts. Firstly, she suggests having a quick snack immediately after riding, followed by a larger meal. This way, you can fuel your body promptly without having to consume a heavy meal like a pot roast after a challenging 18-mile ride in hot weather.

Fat-free cottage cheese should not be chosen, even if you’re watching your calorie intake, as one of her preferred options is cottage cheese with fruit, which provides high-quality whey protein, calcium, and carbohydrates from the fresh fruit.

Not only is consuming whole-milk dairy products a sin against all things delicious, but there is also an increasing amount of evidence that reveals that it does not lead to wider waistlines. Sumbal advises consuming cottage cheese with a dairy-fat content of 2 to 4 percent.

3. Egg and veggie scramble

Eating only egg whites is no longer necessary as the yolks hold all the nutrition. According to Kopecky, the yolks are the most advantageous part, containing the majority of vitamins such as A, D, E, and K.

Considering that all those vitamins are fat-soluble, it is optimal to consume them alongside the fat present in the yolk. Her preferred method involves scrambling two to three eggs with fresh vegetables such as kale and mushrooms, and completing the dish by adding Parmesan cheese.

4. Sardines or salmon with roasted sweet potatoes 

In addition to being excellent sources of protein, these two fish are also abundant in omega-3s, which have been proven by research to lower heart rate and perceived exertion levels during exercise. Furthermore, a study conducted at the University of Aberdeen revealed that athletes who ingested fish oil within three hours after a strenuous workout experienced enhanced immune function.

One possible way to prevent post-race sniffles, considering that intense endurance exercise can increase our susceptibility to colds, is to include a meal abundant in fish oil such as sardines or salmon. Additionally, sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A and offer a substantial amount of complex carbohydrates.

5. Whole-grain salad

We do not hold any hostility towards lettuce, however, on certain occasions – such as after a run – you may require something more substantial. For Kopecky, her preference is a grain salad. Typically, she prepares it with faro, wild rice, or quinoa, all of which are rich in minerals and fiber and also offer some amount of protein. Combine the grains with a variety of cheese and robust greens like kale, which will remain firm even after being stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

Kopecky and Olympic marathon runner Shalane Flanagan, who is also her co-author for the upcoming cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow, both include a generous amount of olive oil-based vinaigrette when preparing their grain salads. Kopecky explains that they both incorporate a significant quantity of olive oil in their diets due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

6. Beet salad

Beets are a fantastic inclusion in salads due to their nutrient richness, low calorie content, and ability to provide satiating fiber. Additionally, they possess a high concentration of dietary nitrates, which aid in the production of nitric oxide, a crucial molecule for maintaining healthy blood vessels.

Research has indicated that including dietary nitrates sourced from beets and other nitrate-dense vegetables, like spinach and arugula, in one’s diet can enhance running performance and prolong endurance. Begin by utilizing mixed salad greens as the foundation, then incorporate a peeled and cubed cooked beet, followed by sprinkling goat cheese crumbles on top.

To complete the salad, generously pour balsamic vinegar over it and season with salt and pepper according to your preference. If you desire a more filling snack after running, enhance the protein content by including chickpeas, a hard-boiled egg, or a small amount of salmon.

7. Watermelon

Watermelon, a popular choice for summer picnics, contains few calories and is rich in two potent plant compounds — citrulline and lycopene. Citrulline, a compound akin to dietary nitrates, aids in the production of nitric oxide within the body, potentially postponing exercise fatigue and alleviating muscle soreness.

Watermelon, consisting of 91% water, can aid in rehydration after your run. It can be consumed alone or incorporated into dishes such as salads to increase their satiety. For a nourishing post-run snack, mix cherry tomatoes, sliced red onions, baby arugula, feta cheese, and cubed watermelon. Optionally, drizzle the salad with olive oil and lime juice.

8. Veggie omelet

Eggs are a natural source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and high-quality protein, making them a nutritional powerhouse. Research suggests that incorporating eggs into breakfast can aid in weight loss alongside a low-calorie diet. As a result, an omelet is the ideal breakfast option for individuals who run early in the morning.

To create a flavorful and nutritious breakfast, incorporate fresh spinach, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, onions, and mushrooms into the mixture.

9. Apple or banana with peanut butter

The combination of apples and bananas with nut butters like peanut butter is a great choice. The carbohydrates found in the fruit, along with the fats in the peanut butter, have a beneficial effect when consumed together. They aid in post-run recovery and also help to keep you satisfied and full throughout the day by controlling your appetite.

To control your calorie intake, limit your serving of peanut butter to 2 tablespoons, which is approximately the size of a ping pong ball.

10. Chocolate milk

Chocolate milk is the ideal drink to have after running.

Low-fat chocolate milk, akin to numerous exercise-recovery drinks available in the market, contains ample high-quality protein and quick-digesting carbohydrates to aid in muscle recovery and replenish energy. Additionally, it maintains a carb-to-protein ratio of 4:1.

In a study lasting 5 weeks, it was discovered that adolescents who consumed chocolate milk experienced a 12.3% increase in strength for bench press and squat exercises, in comparison to those who had a carbohydrate drink. Furthermore, after reviewing 12 studies, it was concluded that chocolate milk either offers similar or superior benefits for exercise recovery when compared to other popular recovery beverages.

11. Whey protein shake

Protein shakes have been available for many years and are widely preferred by individuals aiming to enhance muscle development. While various kinds of protein powder exist, whey protein is considered an excellent option for post-run muscle building.

When consumed, your body rapidly digests and absorbs the protein found in milk. Whey protein, unlike casein or soy protein, contains a higher quantity of the nine essential amino acids necessary for initiating the muscle-building process.

To make a smooth mixture, blend 1–2 scoops of whey protein with water in a blender. To increase the calorie and protein levels, replace water with milk. Enhance the nutritional value and taste by including frozen fruit or nut butter.

You can find whey protein powder easily in supermarkets, specialty stores, and online.

12. Hummus and raw vegetables

Hummus, which is a spread, is primarily made from mashed garbanzo beans, also referred to as chickpeas. It also includes a few additional ingredients such as olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. This spread is a beneficial source of plant-based protein, delivering almost 8 grams per serving of 3.5 ounces (100 grams).

Instead of choosing chips as a dipping option for hummus, consider selecting low-calorie and nutrient-packed vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, celery, radishes, and cauliflower.


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