How to recover after your run

  • By
    Roxanne Fisher - Health editor -

If you're training hard for an endurance race, getting your recovery right is vital for staving off muscle soreness and improving your performance. We asked sports nutritionist, James Collins some of your most commonly asked questions...

How to recover after your run

Question 1:
After exercise

When should I be eating after a run to maximise recovery?

James says:
The sooner the better - ideally within 30 minutes after running as your body needs essential nutrients to kick start the growth and repair process after a hard training session.


Question 2:

Is protein or carbohydrate more important for recovery?

James says:
Both are critical for full recovery after training. Carbohydrates are the body's main fuel source, and are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. As the body can only store a certain amount of carbohydrate, once depleted through exercise these reserves need to be replaced before your next training session.

Protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue and as hard training depletes the body's stores it is important to refuel with high-protein snacks as soon as possible. Ensuring you replenish stores after each training session can significantly reduce muscle soreness the following day. If you can't face eating straight after a run, introduce fluids to your recovery strategy.

Melon & crunchy bran pots

20g of protein is the magic number that you need to hit to optimise the recovery process after training. The following snacks will help you reach this target:

  • 500ml milkshake
  • Natural yogurt based fruit smoothie
  • Sandwich with lean meats, eggs, or low-fat cheese
  • Greek yogurt, granola and mixed berries


Some good recovery recipes with well balanced protein and carbohydrates include:


Question 3:

If you're watching your weight, how do you balance eating for recovery with continued weight loss? How much should you eat?

Barley, chicken & mushroom risotto

James says:
It is possible to balance proper recovery after exercise with weight loss - it's just about getting the balance right. Although many of the questions mention carbohydrates, it is important to adjust your daily intake depending on your training. Intake should be higher on 'key' training days and reduced on days with less training.

When managing your weight, try to get most of your carbohydrates from low-GI foods at mealtimes, rather than lots of higher GI snacks. These will also keep your feeling fuller for longer.

Where possible, eat meals as part of your recovery plan following your run, instead of adding in extra recovery snacks, which increase your total energy (calorie) intake for the day. This may take more planning to coincide runs with mealtimes.


Question 4:

How long after running a marathon would it be sensible to start training again?After running recoveryJames says:

It is important to listen to your body on this one. Physiologically, your body can be ready to start training after a few days, especially as fitness levels are often greatly improved with endurance training. However, don't underestimate the fatigue you may experience over the following week. It is usually advisable for runners to have a break of a week to get a well earned physical, and psychological break from training, before lacing up the trainers again.

Question 5:

What are the key components for a post-marathon recovery plan?

James says:Rehydrate
When you think recovery, think of 'The Four R's':

  • Rest - Get a good night's sleep - this is when most of your muscle repair will occur.
  • Rehydrate - Replace fluid losses by drinking at regular intervals throughout the day.
  • Repair - Eat 20g of protein soon after exercise to kick start muscle repair.
  • Refuel - Eat carbohydrates to help restore energy - a minimum of 1g per kilogram bodyweight is a good general guide.

Now you know what to eat after your run, get the rest of your training nutrition right:
What to eat before your run
What to eat during your run

Are you training for an event this year? Share your tips and experiences below.


As a sport and exercise nutritionist, James Collins regularly provides comment and consultation within the media and maintains a role of governance within Health & Nutrition in the UK, where he sits on The Royal Society of Medicine's (RSM) 'Food and Health' Council. He was heavily involved in advising Team GB in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic games, and now towards Rio 2016.

All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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