The Best Post-Run Recovery Foods

By , Lauren H., SparkPeople Contributor
Many runners plan out their daily health routines down to the nth degree.  However, even though you are seeing your desired results on the outside, you may not be doing everything you can to ensure your body is being properly cared for on the inside. 

Eating the proper foods at the right times can mean the difference between a healthy body and one that isn't receiving the post run nutrition it needs to recover.  Therefore, you should take some time to learn exactly what foods should be eaten before, during and after your running events, if you want to keep your body in optimal condition.  Let’s take a look at some of the best post run recovery foods.

Post Run Recovery Foods By Category

There are a number of different types of foods your body needs after a run.  Let's start with discussing specific categories and why they are important. Then, we will go into the types of post run recovery foods your body needs.

1.  Carbohydrates

You should strive to consume carbohydrates within 20 to 30 minutes after your run.  Eating carbohydrates shortly after your workout helps optimize your body's recovery as that is when your muscles are the most receptive to rebuilding your glycogen reserves.

2.  Protein

Protein helps with the repair of muscles after a strenuous run. Therefore, you should try to consume some carbohydrates and proteins at a ratio of 4:1. In other words, four grams of carbohydrates for every one gram of protein you eat.
3.  Electrolytes and Antioxidants

Running, especially long-distance running, significantly depletes your body's electrolytes and antioxidants.  There are several ways to help restore these vital nutrients in your body.  Certain fruits and fruit juices will do the trick.  Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and eat frequent small meals to help combat fluid loss and replenish your body's electrolytes. 

You are probably asking yourself "what about a sports drink?" Well, sports drinks can be helpful. However, while a sports drink will supply your body with the sodium and potassium you lost through the sweating process, they really don't have any nutritional value.  Therefore, you can guzzle a sports drink for a quick fix but you should ultimately strive to replenish your reserves with fresh fruit or fruit juices. One more tip is to avoid drinking alcohol or large amounts of caffeine as these will only dehydrate your body further.

The Best Post Run Recovery Foods

Now we are going to provide you with specific examples of the best post run recovery foods you can eat to help replenish your body with the vital nutrients it needs.  Of course you need to start restoring your fluids as soon as possible after a strenuous run. Therefore, a sports drink or some water are both great for a quick fix.  However, the recovery process does not stop there.  Here are some specific foods that will help restore your body back to pre-run status.
  • Oatmeal
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chicken
  • Hummus
  • Salmon
  • Lean beef
  • Turkey breast
  • Sports/Energy bar
  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Fruit Juice
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Almonds or other nuts
  • Vegetables
There are some great food combinations that also work well, such as:
  • quinoa salad
  • chicken/turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • whole-wheat pasta or rice with a lean meat and your favorite sauce
  • salad with some lean meat or fish
  • omelet with veggies and lean meat
  • turkey and avocado sandwich on whole-wheat bread

What You Should Do If You Can't Eat Immediately After A Run

It's best to try and eat a post run meal within an hour or so.  However, if that's not possible, strive for one of the following:
1.  Chocolate milk is helpful for immediate nutrient replacement.
2.  Drink a protein shake with either milk or water.
3.  Snack on some Greek yogurt.
4.  Grab an apple.
5.  Have a banana with some peanut butter.
6.  Try some Hummus with carrots or pita chips. 

Although running is an integral part of your health regimen, it can also be hard on your body.  Therefore, you will need some rest and relaxation after your run.  Make sure you give your body plenty of time to recover properly after a rigorous workout.  That means sitting down, relaxing and putting your feet up as you enjoy the fruits (no pun intended) of your labor!

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DAWNGW 7/21/2021
My go-to is coconut water Report
CD24069739 4/14/2021
Thank you Report
FERRETLOVER1 4/14/2021
Thanks. Report
RAPUNZEL53 1/30/2021
Thanks Report
THINCPL2004 12/29/2020
Great article Report
LIS193 11/19/2020
Good information Report
Good to know, Thanks Report
RACHAEL2020 8/14/2020
Good tips. Report
Interesting Report
Thanks Report
Excellent read. Thanks, good need-to-know information! Report
THX for the heads up!!! GREAT info! Report
Thank you Report
Thanks for a great article! :) Report
Thank You for a great article. Report
Awesome advice. Thanks. Report
awesome....thanks.... Report
great list Report
Great blog, thanks for sharing. Report
thanks. Report
Unfortunately most of the "recommended" foods here are all big no no's if you're a diabetic. Fruit juice, bananas? Really? Oh well, back to the drawing board. Report
Great ideas any time you need a quick pick me up. Report
Very helpful article. Report
Thanks! Report
Helpful! Report
I am another one that doesn't much like Greek yogurt, it is the sour taste, after all it is just yogurt with the liquid strained out of it. I think you need to go with what you like to eat, there is always something on the list that you wouldn't touch and something you love, go with what you love. Report
Carbohydrates, protein, electrolytes

milk has this in perfect balance, chocolate adds some more energy and stimulation

chocolate milk is my recovery food/drink of choice Report
The last poster has a point that it's important to fuel up on what we LIKE to eat along with nutrition concerns. Also a perfect example of "to each his own." I cannot choke down full fat yogurt. The Greek for me is just fine. No problem, dietary fat creeps into my life from all sides. Grass fed cows as the source of organic yogurt is important to me too. Report
I find it amusing that so many articles specifically recommend Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt. I know the nutritional profile is different, and that Greek yogurt has less milk sugar and more protein. But I don't like it. Give me some plain yogurt made with whole milk from grass-fed cows any day - you can keep the Greek yogurt. Report
Thank You for this fantastic article!!! Report