Is it essential to eat straight after a run?

Personal trainer Carla Gibbons (trainwithcarla.com) on the principles of post-run fuelling

Smoothie

by Carla Gibbons |

Personal trainer Carla Gibbons (trainwithcarla.com) on the principles of post-run fuelling

The aim of eating after a run is to help you recover and refuel.

During a run you will have depleted your muscle glycogen - the primary store of energy for the working muscles. So your body needs carbohydrate to refuel these stores ready for your next workout. Good options include wholegrain bread, pasta, sweet potatoes or fruit. You also need protein to help repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissue. Dairy, meat, fish, nuts, pulses and beans are great sources.

Ideally, your meal or snack should have an approximate ratio of 3:1 carbs to protein to maximise recovery. I love a slice of sourdough toast with peanut butter and banana or porridge topped with some yoghurt and berries after an early-morning workout.

The timing is especially important if you are training again later that day or the next day and after high-intensity sessions. Then it is certainly best to eat straight after or ideally within 30 minutes of finishing a run to speed up your recovery for your next session. Research has found your muscles are particularly receptive straight after a workout so nutrients and fuel are absorbed quicker and recovery is optimised.If you find eating hard post-run, smoothies can be a good option for getting in protein and carbs as well as helping you rehydrate. If I’m training away from home, I often pack a yoghurt pouch to have before I drive home and then have my post-run meal when I get in.

If you have longer than 24 hours before your next workout or it was only a light workout then there is less need to eat straight after a run. You can just eat your post-run meal when you are ready for it.

Carla Gibbons is a personal trainer, run leader and passionate trail runner.

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