As soon as I finish up a 14, 18, or 20-miler, one of two things happens: I’m either ravenously hungry – STARVING! – … or I have no appetite at all.
Does this sound familiar? It’s tricky enough to figure out how to properly fuel before and during long runs, but post-long run nutrition is complicated, too – and it’s equally as important.
Your refueling action plan
Following these steps can quell post-long run nausea, stop you from over-eating, and help you recover right:
- Eat before you run. That’s right – proper refueling starts before you take a single step. If you don’t fuel well before a long run, your blood sugar levels will plummet during your workout and you may feel off for the rest of the day. Eat a light, high-carb meal or snack before you head out on your run to set yourself up for success.
- Find an on-the-run fueling plan that works for you – and stick with it. Experiment with different running fuels and drinks, and once you find products and timing that works for you, follow the plan on every long run. If your stomach is upset after runs, try taking in fewer calories more often, drinking more (or less) fliuids, or eliminating fuel options made with artificial sweeteners.
- Eat as soon as you finish your long run. Take in a good mix of complex carbohydrates and lean protein within 30 minutes of completing your run to replenish glycogen stores, repair muscles, and balance blood sugar levels. Eating within this 30-minute window is vital because it’s when glycogen replacement is the fastest. If you’re sick to your stomach, try to get down some carbs – like a dry bagel or crackers – to speed up recovery. Getting solid food into your stomach may actually ease nausea.
- Continue to eat regularly for the rest of the day. Aim to take in a bigger meal – again, a good balance of carbs and protein – within a couple hours of finishing your long run. Then continue to eat healthy, balanced meals and snacks every 2-3 hours for the rest of the day. Going too long without food can cause you to feel ravenous later. The refueling process continues to occur for several hours, just at a slower rate. If an athlete eats properly after a long, hard workout, muscles can be refueled within 24 hours. But when athletes fail to refuel adequately, the process stalls – and you may find yourself dragging during your runs for the next few days.
- Indulge in moderation. If running 15 miles isn’t a good reason to treat yourself to a hot fudge sundae, I don’t know what is! It’s perfectly OK to indulge in unhealthy foods after a long runs, but instead of eating the whole sundae yourself, split it with a friend. Refueling with calorie-dense, low-nutrient foods can leave you feeling unsatisfied and sluggish.
- Drink up. It’s not uncommon to mistake thirst for hunger. Hydration needs are greater on long run days, so make sure you’re taking in enough fluids. Drink a glass of water before and with every meal and snack to stay hydrated.
How do you refuel after a long run?
Written by Jen Matz.