You’ve just finished a hard run and feel shattered, but before you put your feet up, you need to refuel your tired muscles with a post-run snack. The quicker you consume food after a run, the quicker your body will recover. The ideal post-training snack should supply carbohydrate to replenish depleted glycogen stores, as well as protein to repair and rebuild the muscles. Here are our top ten foods for recovery from running.
1 Flavoured milk
Milk’s high protein and carbohydrate content helps refuel exhausted muscles. A 2009 study from James Madison University in the US found that chocolate milk promoted better muscle recovery than a commercial sports drink. And a 2008 study by researchers at Northumbria University found that athletes who drank 500ml of semi-skimmed milk or chocolate milk immediately after training had less muscle soreness and more rapid muscle recovery than those using commercial sports drinks or water.
How much? Between 300ml and 500ml.
Fruit yogurt contains carbohydrate (lactose and sucrose) and protein in a 4:1 ratio. According to University of Texas studies, this nutrient ratio accelerates post-exercise refuelling, which means faster recovery and muscles that feel less sore the next day. Yogurt is also rich in bone-building calcium – one 150g pot delivers around one third of your daily needs.
How much? One pot after runs lasting less than 30 minutes; two pots after longer runs.
3 Cereal and granola bars
Cereal bars are easy to eat straight after a run when you don’t have time for a meal. Choose bars containing lots of oats, which provide a more sustained energy boost, as well as a little more protein than other cereals. Most bars supply around 90 to 130 calories and less than 5g fat, which makes them quick to digest and a healthier alternative to biscuits.
How much? One bar following a 30-minute run; two bars after longer workouts.
Bananas supply easily digestible carbohydrate – around 15g per banana – from a mixture of sugars (fructose, glucose and sucrose) and starch – perfect for replenishing muscle fuel. Bananas also deliver potassium, which is essential for balancing fluid levels in cells after running, and magnesium for making new body cells. Try blending one banana with a little honey and a cupful of skimmed milk or a pot of yogurt for a nutritious smoothie.
How many? One banana for every 30 minutes you run.
Raisins are a concentrated source of carbohydrate, which makes for a useful post-run snack when you need a quick energy boost. They are also a rich source of fibre, potassium, and antioxidant vitamins and minerals.
How much? A handful (60g) will boost glycogen replenishment.
Avoid the risk of post-race colds by eating blackberries. Their high levels of natural phenolic acids help kill viruses and fight infections. Just 15 berries and provide around one third of the vitamin C you need each day and half the vitamin E (which helps relieve post-run soreness).
Try this super-quick dessert: whisk a 150ml pot of Greek or thick plain yogurt with a few drops of vanilla extract. Layer the yogurt with fresh blackberries and crunch oat cereal.
How much? About 15 berries – or 85g – counts as one of your five-a-day.
7 Rice cakes with peanut butter
Plain rice cakes can provide a quick energy boost after a run, but eating them with a little peanut butter is even better. This combination provides the perfect ratio of carbs to protein (4:1) for speedy glycogen refuelling and muscle repair. Peanut butter also provides protein, fibre and vitamin E.
How much? Four rice cakes with a tablespoon (20g) of peanut butter.
All nuts are a good source of protein, fibre, heart-protective vitamin E and B vitamins (which help release energy from food). They not only promote muscle recovery after a run, but can also help you shed pounds. A study from Harvard Medical School found that people who ate nuts as part of a Mediterranean diet lost more weight and kept it off longer than those who followed a traditional low-fat diet.
How much? Around 30g (a small handful) after running will aid muscle repair.
Make your own or buy ready-made pancakes for a high-carb postrun snack. Two pancakes provide about 200 calories and 30g of carbohydrate to refuel depleted muscles. They also supply 5-7g protein, which accelerates glycogen storage and rebuilds muscle cells. Top with a little honey or, for added vitamins, a tablespoon of stewed apples.
How much? Two regular pancakes or four scotch pancakes.
10 Baked beans
Great for soluble fibre (which helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels), baked beans also give you 10g protein per 200g serving – about the same as a large slice (40g) of cheese. Beans are also rich in iron, essential for transporting oxygen around the body, as well as B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. Eat on toast, with a baked potato or, if you absolutely must, straight from the can!
How much? Half a tin (200g) gives you 27g carbs, the amount of carbs burned during a half-hour easy-paced run.