Last week I wrote a feature post on What to Eat Before a Race/Workout. Although your regular run fueling should consist of both carbohydrates and protein, it becomes CRITICAL that you consume enough of each of those after working out hard. Otherwise you might as well have not even bothered to work out, as the minor tears in the muscles you made while running, (necessary to get stronger) will mean your muscles essentially start to eat themselves to help replenish your stores of glycogen. It doesn’t matter about body size, or shape, your body will break itself down if it does not receive the replenishment it has earned!
Okay, enough lecturing for one day. Now to the important part, what should you have?
Various studies have tried to determine exact proportions of each food group, they are inconclusive, but have agreed on two things; consuming protein and carbohydrates within 45 minutes is absolutely crucial. By consuming both together, they are much more powerful in the recovery process. In my own research, and mostly my own experience, I have found that a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates: protein is best. Slightly more protein may be necessary during the intense short intervals that occur towards the end of a speed segment, but as I am now a marathoner in training, I am going to recommend a 3:1 ratio for most people.
What does that mean?
After a hard workout, your body has depleted its readily available energy stores, and they must be restocked before your body can begin the recovery process. The 45 minutes following a workout, your body will use up any nutrients you give it, and this is the best time to take in at least 500 calories of protein, carbohydrates, and some (good) fats.This is not a granola bar, or even a protein bar. That is not enough; you need a full meal. If you absolutely cannot have a full meal at this time, you must consume some kind of protein bar plus a high carb snack such as a banana within 45 minutes, and ensure you eat a full meal within 2 hours.
I have posted many great post workout meals that I enjoy after my runs/races. They have enough protein and carbohydrates to replenish your energy stores, but also taste great! Check out these recipes:
- Hearty Oatmeal and Greek Yogurt Pancakes
- Carrot Cake Protein Pancakes
- Strawberry Shortcake Protein Pancakes
- Chilled Swiss Oatmeal
- Moroccan Chicken Couscous
- Homemade Veggie Pizza with a Honey Wheat Crust
- Thai Veggie Quinoa
- Superfood Curry
- Super Sweet Potatoes
- Tofu Salad with Almond Butter Dressing
- Fish with Peach Mango Salsa
- Salmon, Spinach and Broccoli Risotto
I regularly have these dishes after my hard workouts, and often as meals the night before hard workouts. They help to sustain my training, so I hope they can help you with yours too! Post workout nutrition is just as important, if not more important that pre-workout, so PLEASE make sure you consume enough, and most important of all, STAY HYDRATED!
Read about what to eat before a workout HERE