It's no secret that eating well is important for runners. Proper fueling can help you feel your best while running and boost your recovery. Wondering how to properly fuel before and after a run? Read on for some tips on fueling your fastest run, plus a 30-minute recipe that fits the bill to get you started.
As a registered dietitian who loves to run, I've had the unique opportunity to apply my nutrition knowledge to fuel my own workouts. During graduate school, and now in my career as a registered dietitian, I learned all about the best foods for performance and how to put together balanced meals. Over the years, I've experimented with these principles in real life and have gotten to know what works best for me to fuel and refuel. And I love to help others do the same!
Fueling and refueling as a runner
When it comes to performance nutrition, a few key guidelines can help you fuel your fastest run. Enjoying a balanced diet of lean proteins, healthy fats, your favorite fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and other complex carbohydrates is highly beneficial for runners (and pretty much everyone!). Some runners may also benefit from foregoing foods that are high in lactose, such as milk, if they experience stomach issues after consuming dairy.
These recommendations are good general tips, but keep in mind that nutrition is personal. The best eating pattern for you will depend on your needs and preferences. What works for one runner may not work for another, and that's OK. The following tips are a good place to start, but over time, you'll learn what foods you tolerate before and after runs. And remember, food isn't just a source of fuel — it's meant to be enjoyed! Eat foods that you love, and make room for your favorite treats alongside nutritionally balanced meals.
In general, it's recommended to eat a carbohydrate-based meal with moderate amounts of protein within a few hours before a run. This could be fruit, toast, and a couple of eggs or a bowl of oatmeal with berries and nut butter. If you want to eat closer to your run, such as 30 to 60 minutes beforehand, stick with a smaller snack that's mostly carbs. Think: a banana or small fruit or a piece of toast with jam. For longer runs, add some peanut butter to the banana or eat your fruit with yogurt or string cheese.
After a run, try to eat within a couple of hours if you can. Eating a high-carb, moderate-protein meal is helpful in this window too, since these nutrients work together to replenish your carbohydrate stores and repair your muscles. Throw in a source of fat to keep you satisfied and boost your nutrient absorption. And of course, wash it all down with a glass of water to rehydrate.
Recipe: Peanut butter edamame stir-fry
Now for the good part: the recipe! This is one of my favorite go-to dishes to refuel after a hard run.
Not only is the following recipe great for refueling, but it's also so easy to make and can be on the table in 30 minutes flat. Sounds like the perfect way to satisfy your post-run hunger, huh? To cut back on prep time even more, consider making the peanut sauce and rice in advance. I like to use microwaveable packets of brown rice, available in the freezer section of most grocery stores. For your personal protein preference, you can sub chicken, beef, or tofu for the edamame.
To fuel yourself throughout the day, try overnight oats with fruit and a protein source (like nut butter or chia seeds) and a turkey or veggie sandwich made with 100% whole grain bread. Add a side of carrot sticks, and enjoy a bowl of your favorite ice cream for dessert.
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For the stir-fry:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups sugar snap peas
- 2 cups cooked and shelled edamame
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- Chopped peanuts and fresh herbs for serving (optional)
For the peanut sauce:
- ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Water as needed for thinning
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cut up the vegetables.
Add the carrots, broccoli, and snap peas to a large frying pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender and slightly browned (about six to eight minutes).
In the meantime, prepare the sauce by whisking together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is your desired consistency.
Add the edamame to the pan, along with the peanut sauce. Feel free to reserve some peanut sauce for serving if desired. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally until warmed through.
Serve the stir-fry over brown rice, topped with extra sauce, chopped peanuts, and/or fresh herbs. Enjoy!
If this yummy recipe is any indication (and believe me, it is), fueling for your fastest run yet can be delicious and easy! The tips and meal suggestions in this post will help you feel great before, during, and after a jog sesh. Now that you have some ideas about how to eat as a runner, check out our training plans on the Run Happy Blog for tips on the running part.
Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.