scorecardWhat to eat after a run for optimal recovery and muscle building, according to sports nutritionists
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What to eat after a run for optimal recovery and muscle building, according to sports nutritionists

Erin Heger   

What to eat after a run for optimal recovery and muscle building, according to sports nutritionists
LifeScience4 min read
What you eat and drink after a run is just as important as how you fuel yourself before you hit the pavement. Here is what you need to know about nutrition and hydration after a run.
  • After a run, it's important to eat a snack or meal with complex carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of stopping.
  • It's also important to replenish lost electrolytes after a run, drink fortified water or a sports drink.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Audrey Springer, RRCA certified running coach, BS in Exercise Science, and fitness instructor at Relentless Runners in Knoxville, TN.

What to eat after a long run

When you run, your body relies on glycogen reserves stored in muscle tissue for energy. Your body produces glycogen after you consume carbohydrates, and it's the main source of fuel to keep your organs and muscles functioning properly.

The more you run, the more you deplete your glycogen reserve. You also lose water and electrolytes in the form of sweat. And finally, you break down muscle fiber that needs amino acids from protein to repair and rebuild itself.

Therefore, after a long run of five miles or more, it's important that you:

  1. Eat complex carbohydrates to restore your glycogen reserves and avoid muscle loss, says Gabriela Barreto, RD, a sports dietitian and personal trainer in New York.
  2. Drink fortified water or sports drinks to replenish the sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes you've lost.
  3. Consume protein to supply your body with the amino acids it needs to build muscle.

The ideal window for refueling after a long run is within 30 minutes, Barreto says. Try to eat a snack or meal with a mix of high-fiber carbohydrates and protein, like:

  • Peanut or almond butter on whole-wheat bread
  • Oatmeal with fruit
  • Yogurt with granola
  • Trail mix
  • A hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit
  • Brown rice with salmon or chicken and veggies

What to eat after a speed run

What you should eat after a high-intensity speed run is similar to what you should eat after a long run, in that you'll need to rehydrate and replenish glycogen stores, rehydrate, and restore muscle. But this is even more important after more intense exercise, Barreto says.

Glycogen helps fuel high-intensity exercise, and the low levels of glycogen after a speed run can cause fatigue — requiring the body to rely on protein for fuel. This could hinder muscle mass and your future performances.

You can replenish glycogen stores and help prevent muscle breakdown by eating carbohydrates and protein. You should aim to consume a snack or small meal within 30 minutes after a speed run, says Diane Robison, RD, a sports performance dietitian for Sporting Kansas City in Missouri.

Examples of snacks with carbohydrates and protein include:

  • Two eggs on a whole wheat wrap with cheese and veggies
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Pretzels with nuts and fruit

What to drink after a run

Ideally, you should be drinking water about every 15 minutes during your run if you're sweating profusely, but even so, rehydrating after your run is essential to your recovery, Barreto says.

How much you should drink depends on your weight, how far you ran, and how much you sweat. But, in general, Barretto suggests drinking 24 ounces of liquid within 30 minutes after your run.

The liquid you consume after a run doesn't always have to be water. Other types of beverages, like sports drinks, can also aid recovery. Because when you sweat, you not only lose water, but also other nutrients like salt, potassium, and magnesium.

Unlike water, sports drinks with electrolytes, like Gatorade or Powerade, can help restore these nutrients and fight fatigue. Most sports drinks also contain sodium, which is important to consume after a run because sodium helps your body absorb the nutrients lost during your workout, like potassium and magnesium. You can also drink a clear broth soup, which contains salt, to aid in recovery.

What not to eat after a run

While many foods can help you refuel after a run, some foods can hinder your recovery. Foods high in saturated fat, like processed meat or fast food, can slow down the digestion of protein and carbohydrates, delaying your body's ability to absorb them and replenish glycogen reserves, Barreto says.

Alcohol should also be avoided for at least an hour after a run. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it can contribute to the loss of water and sodium — two nutrients your body needs after a run, Robison says. Drinking alcohol after a run will likely cause you to become more dehydrated and feel even more fatigued.


What you eat and drink after a run can make a difference in how well your body recovers and performs during your next workout. Drink lots of water and reach for foods rich in carbohydrates and protein to restore muscle glycogen and repair muscle.