3 Proven Ways to Refuel From a Long Run {+ 2 YUMMY RECIPES!}

For years I struggled with what I call “dead legs,” legs that felt like they had no bounce, just dragging around on the floor. Turns out the problem was that I wasn’t properly refueling post-run. After hours of running, I’d come home and maybe eat some empty carbohydrates like cereal. No wonder I lacked pep in my step.

I’ve seen the light but still need help with delicious ideas for fueling pre-run and refueling post-run. That’s why I linked up with Chelsea Plummer, the food blogger behind Mae’s Menu. Mae’s Menu is full of yummy recipes FOR runners. Chelsea has a knack for creative food combos that give you the nutrition you need to recover fast. She shares her tips for proper fueling and refueling, snack ideas, and two delicious recipes created just for mother runners. Enjoy! 

Chelsea Mae Plummer is the food blogger being Mae's Menu. She's a runner herself, creating recipes specifically for runners.
Chelsea Mae Plummer is the food blogger being Mae’s Menu. She’s a runner herself, creating recipes specifically for runners.

3 Proven Ways to Fuel & Refuel For Running Success {+2 HEALTHY RECIPES!}

Have you ever gone out for a run the day after a hard workout and your legs just felt dead?

Like, not even just sore, but lifeless and devoid of any pep? The kinds of days when you step out the door and your legs feel sapped of energy and you’re not even sure how you’ll be able to push through the miles ahead of you?

I know I sure have.  

(Related: 5 ways to have a healthier kitchen.)

Last year when marathon training about 60-65 miles a week, I realized a trend. On every easy run following my hard workouts, I just felt low energy, lethargic, and just overall not feeling it.

I started to reflect on what I was doing to see what the culprit was. 

  • Could I be training too hard? No, as I had successfully carried a similar training load on two previous marathon cycles.  
  • Could I not be eating enough? Not likely, since I almost always eat until I’m no longer hungry and I never diet. 
  • Did I need a massage? I got one, and though it helped me with soreness, it didn’t help with my energy levels on those recovery runs. 

And then I started to think about what I was eating when. After all, this was the first marathon training cycle I was training for in the morning, rather the evening, so I wasn’t eating as large of a meal immediately afterward. 

3 proven ways to fuel your run
When and what you eat is key to properly fueling and refueling your run.

I’ve heard coaches and sports nutritionists discuss refueling and focusing on nutrition immediately after hard training runs and somehow never paid too much attention to it.  

So, I went looking for those articles, podcasts, and marathon training books and zoned in on and refined my post-workout refueling strategy. The effects were almost immediate. My pep returned, my legs felt refreshed, I had energy again, and — most importantly — I enjoyed my recovery runs again. 

Here’s what I learned about post-run refueling  for hard runs– i.e., those over 8 miles or 80 minutes and those with extended high-intensity — and some of my favorite easy recipes I like to do so with so you, too, can get the most results and enjoyment out of your training. 

(Related: How to make meals from your pantry items.)

Post-Run Refueling Lesson 1:

Eat at least a few hundred calories of a carb-dominant snack or meal within 30-60 minutes of finishing my workout.  To be particular, experts recommend .5g of carbohydrate for every pound you weigh (source). Feel free to throw some protein and fat in with the carbohydrates, but they shouldn’t be the focus of this meal.

Why: refueling with carbohydrates will help replenish the carbohydrates lost during your workout. Your muscles are most ready to reabsorb them in that initial post-workout hour window. 

Pro-tip: focus on high-quality and nutritious whole foods sources of carbohydrate. Grab one of these more portable snacks on your way to the shower. 

Example meals or snacks:  

Post-run Recipe: Chocolate Hummus 

Recharge with this black bean (don’t worry– you can’t taste them) and whole foods-based dip that tastes like dessert!  Black beans and fruit are full of healthy carbs and kids tend to love this dip, too!

Pro-tips:

  •  to keep this dip vegan, use dairy-free or vegan chocolate chips
  • dry your beans thoroughly after rinsing for the best texture hummus
  • if you don’t have almond butter, you can also substitute in peanut butter or tahini 
  • adapt the amount of maple syrup to your liking
  • to melt chocolate chips: heat the chips in the microwave at 40% heat in 30-second intervals, stirring the chocolate between intervals 

Serving Size: 12

Chocolate hummus recipe
This chocolate hummus recipe has the carbs, proteins, and fats your body needs to recover from a run.

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 14 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Pinch salt 
  • ¼ cup almond butter 
  • 3-4 tablespoons maple syrup 
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder 
  • ¼ cup melted chocolate chips 
  • ¼ cup old fashioned oats (optional) 
  • Cut up fruit, graham crackers, pretzels, or any of your other favorite dipping foods

Directions: 

Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor or a blender and blend for 45 seconds- 1 minute, or until the hummus is smooth and creamy. 

Serve the hummus with fruit and any of your other favorite dipping foods. Enjoy! 

Notes: 

  • Leftovers last covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. This hummus does not freeze well. 

Estimated calories per serving*:  

100 calories, 4g fat, 1g saturated fat, 3g unsaturated fat, 139 mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g sugar, 4g protein 

(Related: The best foods to eat during your period.)

Post-Run Refueling Lesson 2:

Eat a protein-rich meal, 2 hours after finishing my run. It may initially seem like a lot of eating to do after a run, but this made the most difference in my recovery. I often aimed for a normal size meal with a good amount of protein, carbohydrate, fruits and/or vegetables about 1-1.5 hours after that first recovery snack (source).

Why: Having a good amount of protein in this meal helps the body to repair any of the muscle damage that was done during the workout. Therefore making your subsequent runs better, and most likely more effective. 

Example meals:  

  • Oatmeal bowl with vanilla protein powder, blueberries, almonds, and milk
  • Toasted bagel breakfast sandwich with eggs, cheese, and spinach
  • Lentil Soup — with or without ground turkey
  • A veggie burger or turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread 
  • Whole Wheat Waffles with berries and eggs or yogurt
  • Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Salad (recipe below) 

Post-run Recipe: Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Salad 

Post-run quinoa and pumpkin seed salad
This salad is packed with protein, carbs, and healthy fats for optimal recovery.

Quinoa is such a versatile healthy source of plant-based protein. It takes on almost any vinaigrette and goes well with so many different vegetables. In thi

s recipe, we add in beans and pumpkin seeds for extra protein, minerals, and fiber.  

Pro-tips:

  •  to get add even more protein, serve this with some grilled or broiled chicken or salmon
  • rinse your quinoa before cooking to remove the soapy flavor
  • if you don’t have white wine vinegar you can use an extra 2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice 
  • use whatever beans you have on hand or prefer; I love garbanzo beans and black beans!

Servings: 8 

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions 
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil 
  • ½ lemon or lime, juiced (or about 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 
  • 2 minced garlic cloves 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • Black pepper to taste 
  • 2 cups dino kale, chopped and deveined
  • 1, 14 oz can beans (garbanzo, black beans, kidney beans, etc.), drained and rinsed 
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds 

Directions: 

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, cumin, and black pepper until combined. 

In a small bowl massage the kale with your hands for 30 seconds – 1 minute, or until the kale is tender and turns a darker green color.  

Add the quinoa, beans, kale, and pumpkin seeds to the vinaigrette in the large bowl and gently toss until the vinaigrette is distributed throughout the salad. Serve warm or let cool in the fridge and then serve! 

Notes: 

  • This salad keeps for 3-5 days covered in an airtight container in the fridge. The pumpkin seeds will get soft sitting in the dressing, however, so leave them out until serving if you plan to save some salad for leftovers. 
  • This salad does not freeze well. 

Estimated calories per serving*:  

201 calories, 11g fat, 2g saturated fat, 9g unsaturated fat, 265 mg sodium, 21g carbs, 5g fiber, 3g sugar, 6g protein 

(Related: What to eat before a race.)

Post-run snack ideas to recover fast
Making sure you eat and drink enough after a run is key to recovery.

Post-Run Refueling Lesson 3:

Drink water during and immediately after my hard runs — especially if it’s hot and humid. (source). During a run, I drink to my thirst. After a hard run, I drink 8 ounces of water every 30-45 minutes for the following few hours. Experts recommend drinking about 6 cups for every 2.25 pounds of sweat you lose during a workout (source), so you can adapt your drinking accordingly. 

Why: Everything in your body just works better when you’re hydrated! It’s so easy for me to ignore the importance of hydration but more and more research is coming out connecting hydration to multiple bodily functions — even cognition and mood (source)! 

I hope these tips and ideas help you with your fueling pre-run and refueling post-run. Happy running & happy eating!

Chelsea Plummer is the food blogger behind Mae’s Menu, a food blog with recipes for runners and other athletes. Chelsea lives in Fort Collins, Colorado and has run 4 marathons, 10+ half-marathons, and is currently training to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In addition to creating all of the original recipes for Mae’s Menu, Chelsea is a hairdresser, dog mom, and obsessive book reader. Follow her on Youtube and on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook at @maesmenu.  

*This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae’s Menu are not nutritionists or dieticians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.

 

4 thoughts on “3 Proven Ways to Refuel From a Long Run {+ 2 YUMMY RECIPES!}”

  1. These are some great post run refuel that you have discussed here. I really loved it and thank you very much for sharing this with us. You have a great visualization and you have really presented this content in a really good manner.

    Reply

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