To expedite recovery after long run, nutrition is the key

Tuesday, 03 November 2015 668 Views 0 Comments
To expedite recovery after long run, nutrition is the key

By Prachi Mandholia

You pushed yourself and made it to the very end. Now it’s time to reward and replenish your system

Post-run recovery begins the minute you cross the finish line. Ideally you must eat within 30 minutes of the run, as your body needs essential nutrients to kick-start the repair process. To expedite recovery, nutrition is the key. Remember the four R’s: replenish, repair, rehydrate and refuel your body with carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes.

Fuel for recovery:

Carbohydrates and proteins are the two nutrients of prime importance during recovery. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel which are stored in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles. The body can store only a small amount, so it needs to be replenished before it is completely depleted. Carbohydrates eaten at the right time can help re-fuel the glycogen stores.

Protein aids the growth and repair of the muscle. After a long run, the protein stores are depleted too. Replenishing the stores soon after the run will help minimise muscle stiffness and soreness.

The best pick of foods would be those that offer a combination of carbohydrates and proteins. The rule of thumb is: for every 3 gms of carbohydrates, aim for 1 gm of protein. This combination will help the body in the re-synthesis of muscle glycogen more efficiently than carbohydrates alone.

The perfect combination foods are:

1.     Yogurt with granola and berries: Yogurt provides proteins for muscle repair. Granola, a good source of carbohydrates, will refuel glycogen stores and supply energy. Berries are a good source of anti-oxidants and help speed the recovery.

2.     Yogurt based fruit smoothies: Proteins are needed post a workout as they contain amino acids which in turn help build muscle. Yogurt contains a good amount of proteins for muscle repair. Fruits like bananas are a great fruit choice as your body converts bananas to energy quickly.

3.     Hummus and pita: Hummus, a dip made from pureed chickpeas, contains both carbohydrates and proteins; coupled with the slow-release energy from the whole-wheat pita, this makes for a healthy recovery snack.

4.     Whole wheat cracker and cheese: Whole wheat crackers will not only provide energy but will also fill you up. When you choose your toppings wisely, such as cheese, you’ll be building muscle too.

5.     Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a slow digesting carbohydrate, so it provides sustained release of energy to counter post-run burn out. Also, oatmeal is loaded with Vitamin B complex, a group of vitamins which are an essential source of energy.

6.     Chia seed fruit shake: Chia seeds are a super-food rich in proteins and fibre. They are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants, which aid recovery. Chia seeds absorb water, so they help maintain body fluids and the electrolyte balance. Add to this a fruit like banana, which will provide the necessary energy required by the body. Top the combination up with milk, which will provide proteins required for muscle recovery.

7.      Bagels with peanut butter: Bagels have a high glycemic-index and this helps replenish energy, quickly. Protein rich peanut butter is high in fat, but it is a healthy unsaturated type of fat. Peanuts are a great source of anti-oxidants such as Vitamin E which will aid in speedy recovery of muscles.

8.      Cherry juice: Research has shown that endurance athletes, who drank cherry juice consistently for a few days before the run, and post-run, suffered strikingly less muscle pain and soreness. Cherries help to speed recovery due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Glutamine and anti-oxidants for recovery: Glutamine is an amino-acid that is important for tissue repair and immune function. Research shows that taking 0.2g/kg/bodyweight/day of glutamine can significantly increase the time to exhaustion, and minimise hydration stress from endurance running.

Include glutamine in your post-run diet to stay healthier and boost performance. Include antioxidant-rich foods post-run to speed recovery. Anti-oxidants enhance the body’s ability to recover from extreme physical stress. The best sources of anti-oxidants are fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dehydration is a common scenario post a long run. So fluids containing electrolytes must be part of your post run diet.

FullSizeRenderPrachi Mandholia, M.S. , R.D. , is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator. She is based out of Mumbai, India. She is a practicing Clinical Nutritionist and Columnist, passionate about making changes in lifestyle. She is reachable at


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