If you’ve ever run a half marathon or even completed one, then you probably know that post-race food is crucial.
After all, you’ll want to refuel and recover from the intense workout. But what should you eat after a half marathon?
Nutrition is often an overlooked aspect of getting fit and building up stamina. But without this vital piece of the fitness puzzle, it can be hard to make any progress with your training.
Just adding miles to your weekly target is going to be much tougher without the correct fuel going into your body.
The same can be said once the race is run. Without proper nutrition, you’re not going to have the recovery time needed to fully heal and rebuild your muscles.
So if you’re looking for some tips on what to eat after a half Marathon, keep reading! We’ve got you covered.
But first, let’s talk about why you need to refuel after a half marathon in the first place.
Why Do I Need To Fuel Up After A Half Marathon?
Your body has been working overtime since the start of your half marathon.
It puts itself through a huge amount of physical exertion, which means it needs to rest and recover so it can continue to build strength and endurance.
Along the 13.1 miles of running that you have just completed, you have accelerated the process of certain bodily functions, and have depleted certain nutrients in your body.
For example, as you exercise you will deplete glycogen stores in your body.
This is the name given for stored carbohydrates, which is the main source of fuel for your body. An average person can typically store around 500 grams of glycogen in ten muscles and liver.
After 90 minutes of exercise, your glycogen stores are depleted and will need replenishing in the form of carbohydrates in the diet.
This process of burning fuel for energy also, as you can probably guess, takes a lot of energy to do. And when we burn a lot of energy we can become tired and lethargic.
So it’s vital that we put energy back into our body so that we can feel refreshed after succeeding a half marathon.
Muscle, ligament, and tendons come under a lot of stress, so prioritizing a decent protein intake can help offset any potential breakdown and help keep our joints healthy.
But that’s not all we lose. From a micronutrient perspective, which are nutrients that we consume on a smaller level as our body doesn’t require a lot of them, we can lose certain minerals like potassium, magnesium, and sodium through sweat, which are vital for muscle contraction and other physiological processes.
What To Eat After A Half Marathon
As you can see, there’s more to post-marathon nutrition than just comforting a grumbling stomach because you’re hungry.
Here are some of our favorite picks of foods to have post-race.
These are some of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. They are packed full of vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium, making them perfect for replenishing those lost nutrients during the race.
They are also great for helping to boost immunity, and they provide us with a good dose of fiber, which helps to keep our digestive systems running smoothly.
We recommend having at least two handfuls of spinach, rocket, watercress, or kale.
As we mentioned, we should look to maximize our protein intake post-race. This is because protein helps to repair damaged tissue, and it helps to build new cells.
If you’re feeling particularly sore, then try eating some chicken breast, tuna fish, eggs, or even some grilled salmon.
These are all high-quality sources of protein that will help you get over the exhaustion and fatigue you might be experiencing.
Another good option is to have a protein shake or protein smoothie. Use a blender and add a protein powder, along with some leafy greens and a handful of berries for a super healthy recovery shake.
Whole Grain Carbohydrates
This list wouldn’t be complete without a healthy carbohydrate.
Whole grains are an excellent choice because they contain complex carbohydrates, which are broken down slowly by our bodies, providing sustained energy levels throughout the remainder of the day.
They are also typically more nutritious than their refined counterparts, as they are usually higher in fiber and certain nutrients such as B vitamins, so we recommend you favor these options over white bread or pasta.
You could choose from brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, barley, buckwheat, or even whole wheat pasta.
Just make sure that you don’t go overboard on these carbs though, as too much is not going to mean more recovery.
We wanted to add spice into the mix, as it’s one of the most healthy additions to a meal you can have.
Turmeric has been shown to support joint health, and its anti-inflammatory properties may help to reduce swelling and pain in your muscles.
It’s also rich in antioxidants called curcuminoids, which help to protect against free radicals, inflammation, and oxidative damage.
So, if you fancy yourself a curry lover, why not give this a whirl? It’s easy to find online, and you can use it in many different dishes.
Although often a hotly debated topic, dairy in moderation is a healthy addition to your diet. The benefits include improved bone density, reduced risk of cancer, and increased immune function.
There are many types of dairy products available, including milk, yogurt, kefir, cheese, butter, and ice cream.
All are delicious ways to enjoy dairy, but remember that they are all high in fat, so you need to limit how much you consume.
Try to stick to low-fat versions of dairy, and opt for skimmed or semi-skimmed varieties.
Lastly, fruit is always a good idea. It provides us with a quick source of energy, and it contains lots of antioxidants that help to protect against free radicals and inflammation.
It’s also a great way to refuel your muscles and give yourself a nice sugar hit, which is important if you’ve been training hard.
Try choosing fresh fruits like apples, pears, bananas, oranges, peaches, or strawberries.
What If You’re Not Hungry Post-Race?
Whilst many runners can experience a lack of an appetite post-race, we would still recommend eating a light meal 2-3 hours after you have completed the half marathon.
However, if you don’t feel hungry, then something like a smoothie or easy to digest meal, like yogurt with berries would be an option.
The key thing to remember here is that you want to relish in your accomplishment and enjoy yourself after your race.
Even if that means indulging in some ‘sub-optimal’ treats that doesn’t mean you have failed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Should I Drink After A Marathon?
Rehydrating after a long run is crucial to avoid dehydration, which can result in low energy, dizziness, and confusion.
Water with a pinch of salt will help replenish lost electrolytes, and milk has also been shown to be a good option for recovery.