Wondering what to eat after a run or other workout? You may not be able to scarf as much food as you might think. We often over-estimate the number of calories we burn during a 1-hour sweat-session, especially if it felt particularly tough. Try these snack and mini-meal ideas from The Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners to refuel without overdoing it.
1. The Meal: 8 oz low-fat chocolate milk + 1 serving fresh fruit | Nutrition: 225 calories, 40g carbs, 9g protein | Health Benefits: Fresh fruit and milk help you rehydrate while providing calcium, vitamin D, and other vitamins and minerals.
2. The Meal: 1oz. pretzels dipped in 6oz. low-carb (protein-rich) yogurt | Nutrition: 275 calories, 59g carbs, 12g protein | Health Benefits: Pretzels offer carbs, plus sodium to help replenish electrolytes. Yogurt adds calcium and vitamin D.
3. The Meal: Turkey sandwich that includes 2 slices whole grain bread, 4 thin slices of deli turkey, and veggies | Nutrition: 310 calories, 55g carbs, 17g protein | Health Benefits: The turkey provides protein, while the bread provides nutrients and minerals that support heart health.
4. The Meal: 1 medium banana with 2 tablespoons peanut butter + 8oz. recovery shake | Nutrition: 380 calories, 55g carbs, 12g protein | Health Benefits: The sports drink replenishes electrolytes and fluids. The banana provides potassium to help with muscle contraction. The peanut butter adds healthy fats, plus niacin, which helps recovery.
5. The Meal: 1 whole egg (cooked in a nonstick skillet) on a toasted whole wheat English muffin + 1 cup fresh blueberries 6oz. Greek yogurt | Nutrition: 290 calories, 37g carbs, 21g protein | Health Benefits: Blueberries contain antioxidants that help ease muscle soreness. The yogurt provides calcium and vitamin D to support bone health. The egg provides protein, B vitamins, and choline, which boost immunity.
6. The Meal: Smoothie that includes 8oz. fat-free milk, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 medium banana, 1 tablespoon fat-free chocolate syrup | Nutrition: 340 calories, 55g carbs, 14g protein | Health Benefits: This is easy on the stomach if you can’t tolerate real food after a run. Milk provides calcium and protein. The peanut butter offers healthy fats and niacin. The chocolate syrup adds carbs and a sweet treat.
7. The Meal: 3 cups air-popped popcorn + 8oz. low-fat chocolate milk | Nutrition: 280 calories, 46g carbs, 11g protein | Health Benefits: Popcorn provides carbs, fiber, and iron. Milk provides calcium and carbs. Together they can satisfy your sweet and salty cravings.
*Calories and nutrient counts are estimates based on USDA nutrition database; specific brands may offer nutrient counts that vary slightly from the values listed in the table above.
Update From Our Registered Dietitian:
Many nutrition experts recommend low-fat instead of full-fat dairy because the latter is higher in calories and saturated fat. There is controversy about whether this is the best advice, as research emerges to say that full-fat dairy is not as harmful as we thought and could be beneficial for weight management. The choice between full-fat, reduced-fat, low-fat dairy or no dairy is a personal one. It likely won’t have a huge impact on your health goals if you include dairy as part of a well-balanced, well-portioned diet. Still unsure? Talk to your doctor or dietitian to figure out the best choice for your individual needs.
—Trinh Le, MPH, RD
What’s your go-to, post-workout snack? Tell us in the comments below!
The Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners provides all the information neophytes need to take their first steps, as well as inspiration for staying motivated. The book presents readers with tips for smart nutrition and injury prevention and includes realistic training plans that enable beginning runners to achieve gradual progress (by gearing up for a 30-minute run, a 5-K, or even a 5-miler).