Looking to improve your performance, speed up recovery, and increase total health and fitness?
Then, you need to pay attention to your pre- and post-workout nutrition.
If you don’t adequately address your pre- and post-run nutritional needs, odds are you might not make it down the road.
In fact, consuming the right nutrients at the right times is just as important as the frequency and intensity of your runs.
That’s why today you’re in luck. To make sure you’re eating the right things at the right times, I have gathered an extensive list of some of the most nutritious pre-run and post-run meals and snacks. Enjoy!
So, are you excited? Then here we go.
Note: Please keep in mind that some of the strategies shared below might not work that well if your goal is to burn fat and lose weight. For weight loss eating plans while running, check my other posts here.
The Pre-Training Diet
Pre-workout nutrition is essential before a run. It ensures that you have enough gas in the tank to do the work. Your body is just like a car—it can’t (and won’t) run without the proper fuel.
What’s more, research shows that proper pre-training eating can help prevent low blood sugar along with its symptoms. These include dizziness, fatigue, indecisiveness, lack of coordination, muddy thinking, and blurred vision.
As a rule of thumb, consume something that will give you an energy boost, but causing no stomach issues on the road.
The answer depends on your session intensity/length, fitness level, and personal (digestion) preferences.
As a general guideline, moderate to intense workouts—anything performed at a 5K pace or faster, requires energy loading. A small meal before two to three hours before setting out, or a large meal the night before the day of the run can do the trick for most people.
Give it Time
As a rule of thumb, the bigger the meal, the more time your digestive system will need to carry out its job. That might translates to 30 to 45 minutes for a snack, 90 minutes to two hours for a small meal, and up to three to four hours for dinner size meals.
Just keep in mind that people are different. Some runners can devour a full meal as little as an hour before a run, then experience no issues while pounding the pavement.
While, on the other hand, others (me included) might have a sensitive stomach and need to wait for hours before setting out.
So, nothing is written in stone here. All you have to do is to experiment with different timeframes to see which one works the best for you.
The Right Choices
Here are some of the foods and snacks I eat before my runs to help keep me energized during without weighing me down.
- Banana or apple with nut butter
- Two whole eggs with peppers, low-fat cheese, and onions
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Oatmeal with fruit and low-fat milk
- Oatmeal with whey protein
- Jelly toast and peanut butter.
- Half a cup of brown rice with black beans
- Half a cup of oatmeal with berries and agave.
- Apple with a serving of walnuts
- Sweetened potato with steamed broccoli in olive oil
- Salad with roasted chickpeas and vinegar
- Burrito with beans and brown rice
- Banana with almond butter
- Quinoa bowl with pecans and blackberries
- Multi-grain crackers with hummus
- Multi-grain bread with raw peanut butter.
- Protein shake with one scoop of protein powder and a banana.
- Dark chocolate
- Yogurt and raisins
- Energy gel or energy bar.
- Apple and peanut butter
- Whole grain bread and almond butter
- Carrots and cheese
- Veggies and hummus
- Bagel with cottage cheese
- Banana and chocolate milk
- Yogurt and almonds
- Trail mix of dried fruit and nuts
- Crackers and cottage cheese
The primary purpose of a post-run meal is to provide your body with the right nutrients for proper recovery and to maximize training benefits.
Think of post-workout eating as a continuation of the recovery process. After a run, your muscles are depleted, damaged, and physiologically primed for nutrient intake.
The Right Mix
Research published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Medicine reported that consuming a mix of carbs and protein is best immediately after exercise.
For the post run meal, research recommends a 3:1 to 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. This can be adjusted to meet your personal needs and preferences.
The timing needs not to be exact to the letter, but, experts suggest that consuming these macronutrients within 30 to 45 minutes after exercise is optimal.
In fact, research has revealed that postponing carbohydrate consumption by longer than two hours after exercise might reduce glycogen synthesis— your body’s process of refilling its energy stores—by up to 50 percent, compared to eating immediately after a workout.
In short, make sure you get your post run meal, snack, or workout shake right after running as based on the research.
The Best Choices
I highly recommend chocolate milk is the ideal option for restoring and replenishing both carbohydrates and protein. The high water content of chocolate milk helps replaces fluid lost through sweat and respiration.
This drink also scores high in minerals, including calcium—key for healthy bones and energy metabolism.
Here are more easily digested post-run meals and snacks to experiment with:
- A fruit and low-fat milk smoothie
- Protein shake
- Oatmeal with banana and almond butter
- Almonds and a piece of fruit
- Baked salmon and asparagus
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Sweet potato with cottage cheese
- Whole grain bread with almond butter
- Poached eggs and whole-wheat toast
- Banana and peanut butter
- Cheese and crackers
- Whole grain cereals with banana and milk
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Protein sports bars
- Oatmeal with a banana
- Egg salad
- Apple with almond or peanut butter.
- Vegetables with hummus
- Whole grain bagel with eggs whites
- Pasta with chicken, eggplant, and broccoli
- Egg white and spinach omelet
- A handful of raisin and nuts
- Vegetable omelet
- Greek yogurt with fruits.