The most important post-run to-do? Refuel!

Your post-run routine probably includes high fives or elbow bumps (self high fives included), double-checking that your run uploaded to Strava (don’t forget to give those kudos), stretching a little, and then hitting the shower.

While you’re crossing things off of your list of post run to-dos, don’t forget about refueling! Refueling helps to start your recovery process, and if done properly, it replenishes the glycogen stores in your liver and muscles, helps to repair micro-tears in your muscles, and replaces electrolytes and minerals lost through sweat.

After a run your body needs carbohydrates to start replenishing glycogen stores to prepare your body for your next training run. The recommended amount of carbohydrates is 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Protein helps the uptake of carbohydrates into your muscles. It also helps to repair the small tears in your muscles that can happen during a training run.

Electrolytes and fluids are very important to post run recovery, because your body can only convert carbs into glycogen efficiently when you’re properly hydrated. Electrolytes help draw more fluid back into your body and replace minerals lost from sweat.

After a short run you will want to refuel within 30 minutes of ending your run and then 1.2 grams of carbohydrates and 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight in half of your snacks and all of your meals.

The longer your run is, the more you will need to recover. Ideally you’ll refuel with the recommended carbohydrate amount of 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight within 30 minutes of ending your run or at your next meal, then an additional 1.2 grams of carbohydrates plus 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for the remainder of the day.

The foods we eat, how much we eat and when we eat them can make a big difference in your training and race performance. 

The key refueling takeaways are:

  • Refuel with carbohydrates as soon as possible after your run ideally 15 minutes – 30 minutes maximum. Miss this window and you’ll be playing catch up the rest of the day.
  • A banana, apple, orange, peanut butter sandwich, or energy bar with primarily carbs and some protein are great choices to have in your car or keep ready at home for your return.
  • You need food to fuel your body – to help you push further, to run faster, to perform at the highest possible level. But food should be more than just fuel. It should also be a pleasure to prepare and eat. You can find nutritious recipes on the blog to help stoke your energy for your race, or help replenish energy spent during long training runs.
  • If you don’t refuel properly, you risk going into your next training session depleted, making yourself a greater risk of illness and injury.

What’s the best food to eat after a run? We asked Run Ottawa members and the runners of Instagram what foods they like to refuel with post run. Here is what they shared with us:

“I love my chocolate banana cherry protein shake:

  • Scoop of chocolate protein powder,
  • 1/2 a cup of frozen banana,
  • 1/2 a cup of frozen cherries (PC carries them in pretty cheap bags in the freezer section)
  • top up with milk (could be any other non dairy milk if you don’t like normal milk)
  • Blend in blender

It has pretty much everything I need to recover. A banana for the potassium, cherries for flavor and to help with inflammation and TONS of proteins for recovery (40-60g depending on the milk and protein powder you use). It’s hydrating and tastes a lot like a classic milkshake!”

-Will Richardson

“Chocolate milk!”

-Sandy Archibald

“Does beer count? Asking for a friend. In all seriousness, I crave salty carbs, so I love to binge on corn chips!”

-Tracy Shouldice

“A steak or a burger! Why? Because protein is essential and it contains so many nutrients, vitamins and minerals – no processed potions or powders required!”

-Angela Koskie

“Chocolate milk and bananas. And tea, cold or hot. After a long run, these are the only things that seem appealing.”

-Vicki Bencze

“My favourite long run recovery meal is sushi and martinis. Several years back, I had to do my long run on a Thursday winter night after work. It was cold and dark and I was tired before I even started on my 24km run. When I was finally done, my sweetie took me out to our favourite sushi place and we had an amazing meal. It’s become a bit of a joking tradition now, but I still think it’s actually a really great recovery meal/reward. It’s high in protein without being overly filling.”

-Ellen Dickson

“Chocolate milk or Ovaltine in milk in the summer or hot chocolate in the winter.”

-Judy Andrew Piel

“A super large strawberry milkshake. Just because I never feel like eating much for a while after a long run.”

-Richard Bellefeuille

“Lays Stax chips or French fries! Salty goodness.”

-Erin Beasley

“Banana cut in discs w peanut butter & lettuce on a tortilla shell.”

-Yves H Prévost

“Chocolate milk. When I ran the Prague half marathon they had pots of warm chai at the end. That was lovely.”

-Kristi Raz

“My go-too is chocolate almond milk with salted crackers and peanut butter.”

-Joanne MB

“A portable, easy to carry in any season or gym bag, protein recovery bar. Within 30-45 minutes after and I remember to hydrate with electrolyte drink and water.”

-Gary Rush

“Potato chips.”

-Stephanie Gordon

“Chocolate almond milk because it is so tasty and a great reward after a long run.”

-Ashley Jackson 

Share your favourite recovery fuel with us by tagging us in your instagram posts and stories at @ottawaracewknd and @runottawa.