Best Ways to Refuel After a Hard Run
There are five factors you should take into consideration for fueling after your run:
1. What was the duration and the intensity? Gauge your effort and track your distance to understand how many carbs you need to replenish your glycogen and rehydrate.
2. What were the conditions of the workout? The weather, temperature and humidity have a significant impact on your performance. Your body will have to work harder and sweat more when it is hotter outside. Use this calculator to determine your ideal pace based on weather.
3. What can you stomach? Eat what your body can tolerate. Liquids are best since they can be absorbed quicker by the body and digested more easily.
4. What is accessible? Make something that is easily transportable. This can be a protein bar, fruit or toast that can go in a plastic bag ready for you to consume post workout.
5. What do you have planned for tomorrow? Your post workout meal helps you recover for your next run. This is where the nutritional composition and timing of the meal matter.
Guidelines for Refueling
As a runner, keep these guidelines in mind when refueling.
No matter what the latest diet fad says, carbs are not the enemy; as a runner, you need them. Glycogen is the body's preferred source of energy during moderate- to high-intensity exercise. A resting muscle glycogen content of an untrained person consuming a mixed diet is around 80 to 85 milimoles per kilogram of muscle while a runner is around 120 milimoles per kilogram. To adapt and recover you need to refuel with carbohydrates.
Add Some Protein: Be sure you have a 3:1 or 4:1 carb to protein ratio. After a hard run, you need to replenish your glycogen stores and rebuild muscle. A study conducted in 2014 found ingestion of protein post workout stimulates muscle protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown. So, before you decide to indulge in a pastry, get in some quality carbs like rice or sweet potato with a happy helping of protein like chicken or whey powder.
Eat Enough Calories and Replace Fluids:
A study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine recommends a carbohydrate intake of 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you plan to eat a meal with carbohydrates and protein, the same study recommended 0.8 grams per kilogram for carbs and 0.2 grams per kilogram for protein of body weight. For re-hydration, drink between 12 to 24 ounces for every pound of body weight you lost during exercise. If you use a sport drink to replace electrolytes, count those as your carbs.
Time Consumption Based on Next Workout:
Most research agrees that the sooner you refuel, the better; but the general consensus appears to be within 30 minutes of activity. Restoring glycogen as quickly as possible is more important if you have a workout in less than 8 hours. The best way to do this is to consume high-glycemic foods; this is more effective in small feedings over 4 hours. If you have more time to recover, timing is not as important.
Refueling Based on Various Workouts
Now that you have factors and guidelines that influence refueling, look at it based on various distances.
Recovery Run: Aerobic exercises, such as a recovery run, uses oxygen and rely on fat for fuel. After a run like this, you really just need to eat a healthy, balanced meal within 4 hours. Aim for a 3:1 carb to protein ratio.
The goal of tempo runs is to stay just below your lactic threshold as you sit on the border of aerobic and anaerobic systems. Restoring your glycogen stores after a tempo run is critical to recovery. Consume 4:1 ratio of carbs and protein on the lower range of 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight within 30 minutes. Avoid consuming fat for this meal because it will slow down the metabolism for the carbs and protein that are needed to recover.
Intense Track Workout:
These workouts will be strictly anaerobic, without oxygen, which means your body uses glycogen as fuel. These workouts are often short and require resting between sets. If your stomach can tolerate it, the best way to refuel is with a high glycemic and high carb sports drink between sets.
If you plan to do over 1.5 hours of activity, it is important to fuel before and during your workout. Runs like this often start as aerobic and then switch to anaerobic as your body starts to fatigue and your heart rate rises. After a long run, you need more calories with the 4:1 ratio of carbs and protein on the higher range of 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Aim to consume most of the calories within 4 hours of the activity in small feedings.