Q: What’s the best thing to eat after a run?
A: Ideally, you should eat something that has mostly carbohydrates, some protein, and a little bit of fat. If you are pressed for time, chocolate milk is actually a great option.
Another good option for a post-run meal or snack is a smoothie with a scoop of protein powder. In my smoothies, I usually throw in a few ice cubes, about a cup of coconut or almond milk, half of a frozen banana (don’t compost your over-ripe bananas, freeze them for smoothies or banana bread), berries (if I have any), and a generous scoop of whey protein. Often, I throw in a huge handful of greens, like brocolli, spinach, or kale. You can use fresh or frozen veggies. This is a super-easy way to sneak in some extra nutrition. Other great post-run meals would be a slice of toast with nut butter and a cup of greek yogurt or a couple of scrambled eggs with toast. In the former, you get carbs from the toast, protein from the greek yogurt, and fat from the nut butter. In the latter, you still get carbs from the toast, while the eggs have your protein and fat. Don’t skip the yolk- an egg was meant to be eaten as a whole food.
In general, it’s better to eat complex carbohydrates (ie fruits and vegetables) versus simple starches (bread, pasta, other processed starches). After a run, however, the opposite is true. For example, if you’re choosing between a bagel and an apple, choose the bagel right after a run, and save the apple for any other time of day. A bagel has a higher gylemic index than an apple. This means the sugar in the bagel is absorbed more rapidly into your bloodstream, creating a sharper spike in your blood sugar than the apple. Right after a workout, the quick release of energy from the bagel allows your muscles to replenish their glycogen as quickly as possible, setting you up for optimal recovery.
The sooner you can eat after a workout, the better. Even if you don’t have time to eat a full meal, just a drink of chocolate milk consumed within the first 30 minutes post-workout makes a huge difference. That 30 minute window is the best time for your body to reap the benefits of any nutrition you consume. Also, eating a meal or a snack immediately after working out prevents you from from overeating because you waited until you were STARVING to eat something.
While it is normal for some workouts to feel better than others, the next time your legs feel heavy or you just feel “blah” during a run, think about your last workout. What did you eat afterward? How long did you wait to eat after the workout? While sleep, stress, and other factors affect your energy level, the culprit can also be nutrition.
What’s your favorite post-workout meal?