Posted by: Joe English | July 29, 2009

Nutrition — What’s the best food or drink to recover after long runs?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

A reader named John W. from Florida writes in with a good question that every runner should have on their mind — what are the best foods to eat after a long run to help with recover? We did a video on the topic of recovering from the marathon recently in our video series, but let me expand on this with some recipes and further commentary. First John’s question:

“I’ve heard people say that eating and drinking right after my runs is important to speed recovery. First, is this true. And, second, what are the best things to eat or drink to help with recovery?”

To answer the first part of your question John, it is absolutely true that runners should be eating and drinking within the first 30-45 minutes after their run to help ease and speed their recovery. That window of time is critical in that the body is primed to reload depleted muscle energy stores and to start the rebuilding process from the damage done during the workout. And by easing your recovery, I mean helping to alleviate a great deal of the soreness, stiffness and fatigue that comes in the 24-48 hours after a long run. In fact, one of the prime drivers of when you’ll be ready to train hard again, is whether you’ve reloaded yourself properly in those first critical minutes after your workout. If it is taking you two or even three days of feeling totally wrecked after your long runs, then look to your post-run recovery regime for help.

Basic recovery procedures
First, let’s start with the basics. Rehydrate the body by drinking 32 ounces of fluid immediately after running and then every two hours for the next 4-8 hours after the workout. Use a sports drink or electrolyte solution to replace lost electrolytes. Second, you want to “eat” 1 to 1.2 grams of carbohydrate for each kilogram of your body weight and about 15 grams of protein in those first 30-45 minutes after the end of the workout. Third, when I say “eat” I may mean drinking instead of actual eating these foods. Liquid foods (e.g. smoothies and shakes) will be easier to digest and will be absorbed more quickly than solid foods. But if your body is screaming for something solid, then this is a signal from your body that it needs more food. Liquid foods also can often go down when the stomach is still tender after a difficult workout, so most of the recommendations below are for liquids.

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