Refueling After The Long Run

Sara K. Larsen - Monday, July 13, 2015

Sufficient recovery and the manner in which, you treat your body after a long run will be key to your marathon success. When you think of recovery nutrition I suggest you remember the 3 R’s: refuel with carbohydrates, rebuild with protein, and rehydrate with fluid.

Refuel with carbohydrates and rebuild with protein:

Aim to refuel within 30 minutes of your run. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your muscles and used for quick energy. These stores need to be replaced for a quicker recovery and to ensure optimal performance during your next workout. Proteins and their component amino acids are needed for muscle repair.

Refueling post run with a carb to protein ratio of 3:1 has shown best results for muscle repair and recovery. Here are a few options with a 3:1 ratio:

  •  - Banana with nut butter
  •  - Oatmeal made with milk and fruit
  •  - Peanut butter on whole wheat bagel
  •  - Turkey sandwich

Insufficient refueling after your long run will lengthen your recovery time and potentially lead to fatigue and injury. If you struggle to eat a post-run meal due to lake of time or appetite, try a fluid replacement drink that has carbs and protein like chocolate milk, a smoothie, or recovery beverage.

Continue to eat regularly for the rest of the day after your long run. Aim to take in a bigger meal – again, with a good balance of carbs and protein – within a few hours of finishing your long run. Then continue to eat healthy, balanced meals and snacks every 2-3 hours for the rest of the day. Going too long without food can cause you to feel ravenous later. The refueling process continues to occur for several hours, just at a slower rate. If a runner eats properly after a long run, muscles can be refueled and repaired within 24 hours. However, if a runner fails to refuel adequately, the process is stalled and you may find yourself dragging during your runs the next few days.

Rehydrate with fluid:

Since each person’s sweat loss varies greatly, it’s best to let your body tell you want it needs after a long run. Two things to rely on: thirst cues and urine color. Thirst – if your mouth is dry and you crave fluids, drink up! Urine – should be a pale yellow color. If your urine is dark, your body is dehydrated and fluid replacement is a must.

When your long run lasts an hour or more, you should get at least half of your fluids from an electrolyte-enhanced drinks. Studies have shown that around the hour mark is when salt losses in sweat become significant enough to be replaced. Nuun hydration, for example, is an excellent electrolyte enhancement drink that will help replenish you after a long run.

The best way to make sure you’re getting enough fluids is to weigh yourself before and after your long run, then drink enough to bring your weight back up to where it was pre-long run. The instant weight change you see after a run is due to fluid loss and drinking yourself back to your pre-run weight will ensure that your body is fully hydrated (and can even help with meaningful weight loss!).