Why recovery nutrition is important for runners

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  May 23, 2022

Did you know you can help your body to recover from your runs through nutrition? We talk to the experts to find out how

We’ve all heard that recovery should be a key part of our running schedule, but if you’re anything like us, you’re not really sure what to do for recovery or why we need to do it.

We talked to sports nutrition experts, Allsports Nutrition, to find out why recovery through nutrition is so important, and how it can benefit our physical wellbeing and performance.

“No matter whether you run for fun, run to improve, or compete in races, one of the biggest factors determining the rate at which you improve will be how well you recover after each and every running session. The more intense the run, the more critical it will be that you recover quickly and effectively.” Read on for their advice on recovery nutrition.

The science of recovery

In order to understand how important recovery is in relation to running performance, it helps to know how important your muscles are, and how to fuel them correctly.

The building blocks of muscle itself are proteins, but muscles also hold the fuel your body needs to provide energy, which is obtained mainly from carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates play a major role in getting the protein into the muscle.

Imagine that your muscles are like a sponge but instead of holding water they hold muscle sugar (glycogen) and water. This is ‘muscle fuel’ – your primary energy source, which can be compared to petrol inside the petrol tank of a car. Obviously you wouldn’t set out on a car journey with an empty fuel tank; nor should you set out on a run with no fuel in your muscles. To fill your muscles quickly with muscle fuel you need to take in carbohydrates – these carbohydrates are then converted into muscle glycogen, and in this process the carbs also drag water into the muscle.

As soon as you start to run, you use up the glycogen and water again, just like squeezing water out of a sponge or the car using the petrol. If you run hard enough (or long enough) you will eventually use up all of the muscle fuel, at this point your body will break down muscle tissue to provide energy. The harder you run, the more noticeable this muscle breakdown will become.

How nutrition can help recovery

As soon as you finish your run, it is vital to refuel your muscles quickly – not only to fill your tank back up, but also to repair the broken down muscle tissue as well. To do this most effectively, we recommend introducing carbs, water and amino acids (the compounds which make up protein) into your system within 20 minutes after finishing your run.

What to look for in a recovery product

Carbohydrates are absorbed into the body quicker than proteins (in minutes as opposed to hours), which is why the best recovery drink is one where the protein is pre-digested and in a free-form amino acid state – basically where the protein has already been broken down for you.

The most effective recovery drinks contain carbohydrates blended with free-form amino acids. If intact proteins (such as whey or caseinate) are used in a recovery drink, they will be left behind when the carbohydrates are absorbed and that 20-minute window of opportunity closes. The only intact protein that can be effective as part of a recovery blend is whey hydrolysate – not isolates or concentrates.

It is important to check the label of your chosen recovery fuel to ensure that all of the optimum recovery ingredients are present and that no intact proteins have been added to the formula. It is also important to ensure you are taking in the correct amount of water with your recovery fuel as well to enable to carbohydrates to be transported most effectively to wherever they are needed.

Recovery nutrition designed for women

Our Empower Post Workout Recovery Blend, from the Allsports:Woman range, is a unique and effective blend of complex and simple carbohydrates carefully combined with L-form free-form amino acids. We recommend using it immediately after your run to renew energy levels, repair muscle breakdown and rehydrate muscles, reducing fatigue and aiding rapid recovery.

You can find out more here.

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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