Something as simple as a 30-minute run in the morning can lead to a number of health benefits, from better mood to stronger bones. Running also appeals to a larger demographic because it doesn’t require equipment nor cost fitness center memberships.

Before going out for a run, dietitians and health specialists often recommend eating a light meal to keep fuel stores full. Much emphasis is often placed on these pre-run meals, but the foods that one eats after a good run are just as important.

9 Step Body Cleanse Kit | Ultimate Full-Body CleanseHowever, experts caution against attempting to make up for calories lost after a run. Registered dietitian and sports nutritionist Nancy Clark states that people do not need to be too concerned about refueling after a run, as is often the case.

In fact, people are more likely to overcompensate for lost calories by overeating. It’s like stopping for gas even if the car tank is still full, added Clark. Instead of just replacing lost calories, chef and runner Elyse Kopecky recommends eating foods based on specific running goals.

For instance, some people might be running to lose weight while others run to gain muscles. Different goals require different foods, and knowing which foods to eat and what benefits those foods can give might make it easier to achieve running goals.

Best foods for post-run nutrition

In one of his recent articles online, Dakota-based dietitian Gavin Van De Walle shared some of the best post-run foods to eat for three of the most common running goals that people have: weight loss, muscle gains and completion of a long-distance run or marathon.

Weight loss

Exercise has a big role in burning extra weight and keeping it off for good. Running is one of the easiest exercises for this as it can be done with no equipment whatsoever. Here are five of the best foods and dishes to eat after running for weight loss:

  1. Beet salad – Beets are low-calorie foods rich in nitrates. Upon consumption, these organic compounds are transformed into nitric oxide, an important molecule for blood circulation.
  2. Watermelon – Water-rich fruits like watermelons are ideal post-run snacks. It is almost 100 percent water, so eating more than a few slices shouldn’t lead to weight gain.
  3. Hummus and raw vegetables – Hummus is made from beans, olive oil, garlic and fresh lemon juice. Nutritious and filling, hummus is best paired with raw vegetables.
  4. Vegetable omelet – Omelets can aid weight loss efforts provided it is eaten as part of a low-calorie diet. Stir in fresh spinach, tomatoes, onions and mushrooms for a nutrient-dense post-run breakfast.
  5. Apple and banana with peanut butter – Apples and bananas are fiber-rich foods that help regulate appetite. Dip it into organic and unsweetened peanut butter to load up on some healthful fats.

Muscle gains

Running can also build muscles depending on the intensity and duration of the run. Protein is an important component of muscles, so eating protein-rich foods or a high-protein meal after a quick but intense run should help stimulate faster muscle growth.

  1. Low-fat chocolate milk – This drink is loaded with protein for muscle growth and refueling. Avoid sweetened milk chocolate drinks as much as possible, and opt for those that are low-fat and made from plant-based milk substitutes and pure cacao.
  2. Whey protein shake – Protein shakes are a staple for people looking to gain muscles, runners or not.
  3. Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables – Chicken is a nutritious source of lean protein, but it can be a bit bland alone. Grill it with nutrient-rich vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.
  4. Cottage cheese – Just one cup of cottage cheese contains more protein than two whole eggs. Dip berries, plain crackers and vegetable slices into cottage cheese after a run to load up on protein.
  5. Pea protein powder – This is a good plant-based substitute for milk-based protein powders.

Post-marathon recovery

Long and intense runs like races and marathons can take a toll on the body due to the sheer amount of nutrients it loses during the run, such as protein, sodium and carbohydrates. The sole purpose of a post-race meal is to replace these lost nutrients, so it’s important to eat rich and filling dishes.

  1. Burrito bowl – A post-run burrito bowl should contain nourishing foods like brown rice, black beans, chicken and vegetables.
  2. Penne with chicken and broccoli – Homemade penne is an ideal source of good carbohydrates. Chicken and broccoli, on the other hand, are abundant in lean protein and fiber, respectively.
  3. Salmon with rice and asparagus – This recipe also features a filling combination of protein, carbohydrates and fiber.
  4. Loaded oatmeal bowl – Top whole-grain oatmeal with sliced berries, bananas, chia seeds or almonds.
  5. Greek yogurt with fruit and granola – Greek yogurt boasts a greater protein count than plain yogurt. It can be bland by itself, so pair it with fruit slices or homemade granola.

Eating foods based on running goals is a better approach to post-run meals than just replacing lost calories. But regardless of goals, runners need to replace lost fluids, replenish glucose stores and rebuild muscle fiber after each run.Doing so promotes optimal health and allows runners to reap the full benefits of their exercise. (Related: Running outside vs. running on a treadmill: Which exercise is right for you?)

Read more articles about running for weight loss, muscle gains and other fitness goals at

Divina Ramirez

Sources include:

9 Step Body Cleanse Kit | Ultimate Full-Body Cleanse

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