Disclaimer: Nuts.com was running a project about post-workout snacks this month and I decided to hop on the bandwagon by contributing some of my favorites. Be sure to check out their healthy snacks page for inspiration on all sorts of treats, including high-protein snacks that are great for post-run recovery!
When I first started running, I’d get home after a workout and, totally ravenous, would raid whatever food stashes struck my fancy at the moment… usually cookies or chocolate or whatever looked good. Some choices were better than others, but it was usually something not entirely good for me.
As I started reading up on running, through blogs and Runner’s World articles and the like, I learned that this “runger” was a very common thing. Running burns through carbohydrates, which are our bodies’ main fuel source (also referred to as our glycogen stores). Most pieces I read suggested eating within 30 minutes after finishing a workout, and ideally something with both carbs to replenish those glycogen stores, and protein to help repair tired muscles. (A ratio of 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein seems to be the recommended combination.)
Many of those pieces I read suggested better-for-me choices of post-run snacks than what I typically ate. However, not many of these choices appealed to me. I’m a pretty picky eater, and sometimes a quinoa salad just doesn’t sound good at all after a hard workout, you know?
I’ve been experimenting with various types of post-run food, and while I’ve not yet found the magic snack, the following have been some of my favorites:
Ahh yes, chocolate milk. There’s been an ad campaign making the rounds that sings the praises of chocolate milk as the ideal post-workout recovery drink. Who needs expensive shakes and bottled protein beverages when you can just drink a nice, old-fashioned chocolate milk? After all, it has the recommended ratio of 4:1 carbs to protein, and it’s delicious. To many palates, anyway.
I like it because it’s easy – I always have milk (or, at the very least, Lactaid) in the fridge, as well as a bottle of Hershey’s syrup – and cheap. Those bottled protein drinks add up quickly, but milk is a staple I have anyway, and a bottle of chocolate syrup is less than $3 and lasts a decent amount of time.
Chocolate milk does have downsides, however. For one, when I’m rungry, I want to eat. Drinking milk doesn’t satisfy that desire, unless the milk is chewy, in which case there are bigger problems afoot. For another, sometimes my body doesn’t like to do the lactose thing. Sometimes drinking milk is no problem, other times my stomach starts to protest, and I can never really be sure when protests will happen. Otherwise, I’m down with the chocolate (or other flavored) milk party.
Speaking of ad campaigns, Greek yogurt has recently jumped on the protein bandwagon just like milk, and for good reason. One 170g container of Greek yogurt typically has about 17g of protein. There aren’t many carbs in yogurt (usually less than 10g), so if you want to hit the magic ratio of carbs to protein you’d have to add a little more to your snack.
We usually have a few small tubs of Fage, Chobani, or Oikos in the fridge (whichever was on sale that particular week!), and I’ve been known to attack one after a run or two. The Chobani Flip yogurts are particular satisfying when I’m rungry, and have the bonus of add-ins like pretzels, granola, or nuts to bring the carb half of the ratio up a little more.
Eggs, toast, and fruit
Some of you may have noticed the “diner tour” category I use sometimes on this blog. When I run morning races that aren’t very close to home, I love to grab breakfast or brunch after the race… not just to refuel, but also to try out different diners and breakfast places. I almost always order eggs – usually scrambled, often with cheese – which are high in protein, and toast or a pancake or two (carbs!), along with fruit, often a banana because I’ve been conditioned to crave them after races.
Though this is one of my favorite ways to refuel after running, it really only happens as a treat after the occasional morning race. I don’t hit up diners after every training run, because that would be ridiculous and very expensive, and I don’t usually feel like making myself food this complicated after I come in from a run; I want something I can grab quickly to satiate my runger ASAP! Something like…
Hear me out on this one. I know it’s not a very healthy post-run snack, but picture this: you’ve just finished a tough speed workout at the track. Despite the evening hour, the temperature is stubbornly hovering in the high-80s, maybe even the low-90s, and the humidity level is at High Frizz Alert. You’re soaked with sweat, your lips are salty, and all you can think about is the Wendy’s down the road and all the french fries they have there. Potatoes are carbs, right? And putting some salt back in your body after you just sweat a bunch out can’t be bad, right?
Well, not ideal. But this article from a Fleet Feet store does mention eating salty foods like pretzels or tortilla chips after a workout if you don’t have an electrolyte beverage handy. I usually just bring water, or maybe a Nuun, with me to track workouts, so I’m generally electrolyte-less. While I can’t quite convince myself that french fries are a great post-run snack for every run, I do treat myself after particularly tough track workouts… sometimes with a Junior Cheeseburger Deluxe to add some protein to the mix. Sometimes you just need to treat yo’self.
There are countless articles out there about the best foods to eat after (or before, or during) a run, so there’s certainly no shortage of advice. Here are only a few, which I referred to while writing this post:
The important thing is to find a good post-run snack that works for you; my ideal post-workout treat might be totally repulsive to you after you finish a run, which is what I found with many suggestions in the various articles I read. (As much as I love salmon, the thought of eating fish within 30 minutes of a run grosses me out a little!)
I’m still learning what works best for me, but am happy to be my own guinea pig as I try out different options. I liked the suggestion on Nuts.com’s page about having dried fruit and nuts after a run… dried cranberries or apricots plus some cashews sounds wonderful, actually. I may just add that to my to-try list…
What is your go-to post-run snack?
Ever experimented with post-workout snacks that just didn’t do it for you?