Beyond hitting all your scheduled workouts, there are other components of your running plan that are every bit as crucial, including stretching, strength training and nutrition. To improve both your race times and fitness level, it’s important to realize that what you eat (and when!) matters.
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Your critical refuel window is up to 30 minutes after you sweat it out. It’s best to reach for fluids to restore what was lost in sweat as well as a mix of both carbohydrates and protein. When choosing snacks, aim for a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein to best aid recovery.
1. Banana Boat
Simply grabbing a piece of fruit is a smart way to get started with your recovery. Fruits are loaded with vitamins and minerals, natural enzymes, anthocyanins (powerful chemicals providing anti-inflammatory support) and easily digestible carbohydrates. Bananas are an effortless choice that can help replace lost potassium. Make a banana boat by slicing open a banana lengthwise, then fill with almond butter and raisins or chopped nuts to make it a quick, complete recovery snack.
Hydration is key post-workout, but skip the highly processed, sugary sports drinks and choose a natural juice that will provide electrolytes, replenish glycogen and reduce inflammation. WTRMLN WTR is a good option: Research shows its ability to relieve post-exercise muscle soreness due to the amino acid L-citrulline present in the fruit.
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3. Homemade Granola Bites
Raw nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, have high doses of both protein and satiating omega-3 healthy fats. Try making a batch of homemade granola bites:
* 1 cup of pitted dates
* 1/4 cup of almond butter
* 1/4 cup of honey
* 1 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds
* 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats.
Process dates and combine in a bowl with oats and nuts. Pour warm honey and almond butter over the oat mixture. Combine and roll into balls or press into a pan. Refrigerate 15 minutes to harden. Yields 10 bars or 20 bites. Store in airtight container refrigerated or at room temperature.
4. Avocado Toast
Avocados contain more than 20 key nutrients, including B vitamins, choline, copper, zinc and healthy fats. The nutrients in avocado can support everything from cardiovascular health to weight management and inflammation. Include half an avocado in your post-run snack, either blended into a recovery smoothie or smashed on a piece of whole-grain toast.
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5. Quinoa Cereal
Whole grains offer carbohydrates and fiber, and consuming them will help replenish your fatigued muscles. Oatmeal is a great option as is whole-grain bread, but quinoa is an even better choice, thanks to the high amount of protein it offers per serving. Store a large batch of cooked quinoa in your refrigerator and add half-cup servings to salads or eat as a side dish or for breakfast. To make quinoa cereal, top cold, cooked quinoa with chopped fresh and/or dried fruit, chopped nuts and a drizzle of honey. Top with organic yogurt or nondairy milk.
Readers — Do you fuel up after you go for a run? What kinds of foods do you eat? Can you notice a difference in your recovery when you don’t eat something post-workout? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Kim McDevitt, M.P.H., RD, is a Vega National Educator, runner, cooking enthusiast and plant-focused flexitarian. She has passionately built her career in nutrition. After noticing that her running performances were closely tied to what she was eating, Kim decided to study nutrition and pursue advanced degrees in dietetics and public health to better understand the power of food in performance. Today, Kim specializes in sports nutrition to enhance athletic performance and focuses on realistic and approachable ways for improving health through educated dietary choices within an active lifestyle.