How to recover after your run

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 for high intensity work, and are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. As the body can only store a certain amount of carbohydrate, once reduced through a harder training session these stores need to be replaced before your next workout.*
 
Protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue and after hard training this remodelling can continue for over 24 hours. Starting with the post-training snack, regular protein intake helps to provide the building blocks (amino acids), for ongoing muscle growth and repair.
 
20g of protein is the magic number that you need to hit to kick-start the recovery process after training (slightly more for bigger athletes and less for smaller). These recipes will help you reach this target:

 
*The exception to this rule would be if you were 'training low'. Read more about this in Jame's guide Sport's nutrition: What's worth it?


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:

Many marathon runners are hoping to get a bit fitter and a little lighter. It is possible to properly recover after exercise while encouraging healthy weight loss - it's just about getting the balance right.

Low intensity sessions require fewer calrories from carbohydrates, as the body is able to burn fat for energy. High intensity sessions will require your carb stores to be well stocked.  

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 but will help you reach your goals.

Question 4:

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

James 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


This article was last reviewed on 6 March 2017 by sports nutritionist James Collins.

James Collins is head of nutrition at Arsenal Football Club. He’s worked with some of the world’s best athletes over the last decade within Olympic and professional sport. His Performance Nutrition principles are now helping everyone to look, feel and perform better each day. Find out more at: jamescollinsnutrition.com.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com 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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