What Should I Eat After a Run?

bowl of yogurt and fruit

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

In This Article

What you eat after a run matters. Your body has been strained and taxed and given its all, making it essential to replenish lost nutrients and fluids. This is particularly important for longer and more strenuous runs. Below, we provide a breakdown of how to effectively refuel to maximize the benefits of each run and get you ready for the next one, as well as offering suggestions on the optimal foods to nosh on.


There's much to be gained from a long, hard run. Depending on your goals, you can pare away extra pounds, improve the health of your heart and lungs, strengthen the muscles in your legs and butt, build the endurance to compete in a race, and boost your mood by stimulating the release of feel-good hormones and brain chemicals.

There's also a lot to be lost, at least in the short-term. Intense exercise consumes glycogen—the energy source that the body stores to fuel activity. When you sweat, you lose fluid as well as minerals, such as sodium and potassium. And exercise breaks down muscle cells and fibers that will need to be repaired.

Run Intensity

Your post-run nutritional needs will vary based on the type of run you do, your fitness level, and your body's needs. Following short, low-intensity runs, simply resume your regular healthy eating habits, assuming you follow a balanced diet.

But after long or very intense runs (or other types of strenuous exercise), optimal recovery depends on replacing energy stores as quickly as possible and focusing on replenishing specific combinations of nutrients. It's also important to replace fluids lost through perspiration.

What to Drink

Be sure to rehydrate with water or a sports drink after your run. Drinking fluids should be your first priority, before food. Plain water is fine if you ran for less than 90 minutes, but after a long run, a sports drink has the added benefit of replenishing glycogen and electrolytes. Avoid sweetened beverages and too much caffeine.

Notice the Color of Your Urine

To make sure you rehydrate adequately, take note of the color of your urine the next time you pee. If it's a light shade of yellow (like lemonade), you're good; a dark yellow means you need to drink more.

It's recommended to drink before, during, and after exercising. Daily intake guidelines for water consumption are around 3.7 liters (125 ounces) for men and 2.7 liters (91 ounces) for women. Additionally, the more you exercise, the more you'll need to drink to replenish fluids while running.

When to Eat After a Run

It's ideal to eat something soon after you end your run, especially after an intense one. The theory is if you eat soon afterward, you can minimize muscle soreness. This is because studies suggest that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. The clock starts when your cool-down ends, so aim to consume that post-run meal or snack no more than a half-hour later.

This doesn't have to be a big meal. Just be sure to get both carbs and protein. Then go for a bigger meal in a few hours. If your run was shorter or less intense, quick refueling isn't necessary. You still need a healthy meal, but you can eat it within an hour or two instead of right away.

Some runners experience a bit of nausea after a long run. If you can't stomach solid food immediately after a long run, drink some cold, nonfat chocolate milk. It provides the ideal amount of protein and carbohydrates, and also contains B vitamins, making it a great recovery beverage.

What to Eat After a Run

What you eat is as important as when you eat it. Aim for a combination of carbohydrates and protein.

Make your post-run meal count: be sure it has carbs to replenish your energy stores and protein to rebuild your muscles.


According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, it's ideal to aim for between 0.14 to 0.23 grams of protein for every pound of your body weight. If you weigh 130 pounds, for example, then you should eat between 18.2 grams and 29.9 grams of protein after a tough workout. That could mean:

  • 3 ounces of chicken or turkey breast (21 g protein)
  • 3 ounces salmon (21 g)
  • 3 ounces lean beef (21 g)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese or nonfat Greek yogurt (14 g)
  • 2 large eggs (12 g)

Another reason to consume some protein after a run: protein will help curb post-run hunger.


A ratio of 3 to 4 grams of carbs for every gram of protein is a good target for a solid post-run recovery meal. So, if you consume 10 grams of protein, pair it with 30 to 40 grams of carbs. For longer runs or more intense workouts (like sprints or running hills), 20 grams of protein with 60 to 80 grams of carbs may be needed.

Carbs in the form of glucose are the easiest to break down and use as fuel. But it's still not ideal to eat very sugary or sweetened foods. Instead, try nutrient-dense carbs such as:

  • 1 large sweet potato (37 g carbohydrate)
  • 1 cup cooked whole-grain pasta (40 g)
  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread (12 g)
  • 1 cup brown rice (45 g)
  • Fruit (varies)
  • Vegetables (varies)

Recovery Snack Ideas

Of course, you may not always have the time or energy to prepare a meal after a run. Carefully chosen protein bars can be a convenient, healthy alternative. Look for bars with at least a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein.

Other examples of quick nutrient replacement include:

  • 1/2 a bagel with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • a protein shake
  • a banana with plain Greek yogurt—straight up or blended
  • a post-run smoothie with fresh ginger or cinnamon—both have been found to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.

Common Mistakes

The most typical post-run mistake is thinking it's okay to overindulge after a stint of intense, calorie-torching exercise. While it is important to replenish nutrients and fluids after vigorous activity, be careful not to overdo it.

Although it's true you may have burned lots of calories during your run, that's not a great reason to eat more than might be healthy for you. Watch out for smoothies, because they can often be a source of excess calories and sugar, without enough protein. Other mistakes to avoid include:

  • Waiting too long for your post-run meal. Your body needs to refuel ASAP.
  • Overdoing the protein. You may hear over and over again how important it is, but most Americans (even athletes) get plenty of protein.
  • Drinking alcohol after an intense workout. Research shows alcohol can prevent protein from doing its job of rebuilding and repairing muscles.

A Word From Verywell

Consider your post-run refueling as an important, final part of your workout. Aim to drink enough to replenish fluids and get in a quick snack or meal within 30 minutes of ending your cooldown to maximize your recovery.

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Article Sources
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