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Top Recovery Nutrition Mistakes Runners Make

Tips for nailing recovery nutrition from a dietitian.

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Even with the best of intentions, post-run recovery can take a hit due to confusion on nutrition recommendations or lack of planning or preparation. Nutrition is a key player in your ability to bounce back for the next day of training, especially if you have done a long run, higher intensity session or a double day. Make the most of it by taking these steps to ensure you are making the most of your post-run nutrition.

Mistake #1: No carb with protein post-workout

But I had my protein shake post-workout, so I should be good!” While it is a good idea to have some protein post-exercise to boost amino acid consumption and help with muscle repair, the priority should be to replace carbohydrates. Having carbohydrates with protein stimulates a higher insulin response, which can help with glycogen regeneration and muscle protein synthesis. Aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein: 45–60 grams of carbs and 15–20 grams of protein. A parfait of yogurt with berries and granola fits the bill.

RELATED: Are You Eating Enough Carbs After a Long Workout?

Mistake #2: No hydration

While running, you lose fluids and electrolytes, even in winter. Replacing lost fluids is a good way to ensure that you are setting yourself up properly for the next training session. Scientific recommendations are to replace 150 percent of fluids lost based on body weight. In general, aiming for 16–20 ounces for every hour of exercise can be a good starting point. It is a good idea to consider an electrolyte supplement like a sports drink after long runs over 90 minutes in hot climates or at altitude.

RELATED: Are You Making One of These 3 Nutrition Mistakes?

Mistake #3: Nutrition window

This one has gotten a lot of attention in the science community in recent years. The traditional recommendation has been to rush to replace nutrition in the magical 30 to 60 minutes post-exercise, suggesting a closed-door effect after an hour has elapsed.  You can keep replenishing glycogen, fluids, and electrolytes well beyond that 30-60 minute window, it just slows down. If you exercised from 30 to 90 minutes, glycogen stores have most likely not been depleted anyway, so timing is not quite as important. Guideline wise, if you are doing a double day of training, an interval session, or long run (more than 90 minutes), try to have a snack containing carbohydrate and protein to maximize recovery.

Mistake #4: Taking a bunch of supplements instead of eating food

Other than the occasional recovery powder in a shake, taking supplements does not offer a huge recovery benefit. Food contains calories plus micronutrients that your body needs to repair and rebuild. Supplements may have micronutrients within them, but there is debate as to whether the supplement form is even utilized as well from the body, and they will not have near as big of an effect on performance and recovery as the food-first approach. It might just result in very expensive urine. Plus, supplements are not regulated well—eat food, like the protein ball recipe, below.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Batter Protein Balls

Servings: 6 (1 serving equals 3 protein balls)

  • 1/3 cup Pitted Dates (packed)
  • 2 cups Black Beans (cooked)
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate Protein Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tbsp Cacao Powder
  • 1/3 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 cup Organic Dark Chocolate Chips (optional)
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine dates, black beans, chocolate protein powder, peanut butter, sea salt, and cacao powder in the bowl of your food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  3. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on the covered baking sheet. You should have about 3 balls per serving.
  4. To make the optional chocolate drizzle: melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler and drizzle over balls.
  5. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to set. Enjoy!

Kylee Van Horn is a licensed Sports Registered Dietitian and competitive trail runner.