Your Guide to Post-Run Nutrition From a Certified Nutrition Coach

Key Takeaways

Generally, your post-run food should include 60-70% carbohydrates and 15-20% protein and fats to help with energy and recovery. (1)

Great ideas for a post-run snack include a banana with peanut butter, eggs, or a sandwich. (1)

Runners should plan to eat 30 – 60 minutes after a run, which helps to restore glycogen stores, aids muscle recovery, and helps repair strained muscles. (2)

Studies show that carbohydrate and fluid intake before, during, and after a workout can reduce fatigue and enhance performance. (3)

You take your last few strides, wipe the sweat from your forehead, and hit the mat for some post-run stretches. After your cool down, it’s time to refuel and rehydrate with a quick post-run snack or meal. Proper post-run nutrition helps kickstart the recovery process and sets you up to perform your best at your next training session

Credit: BigPixel Photo / Shutterstock

Here, I’ll lay out the macros and ratios to aim for depending on the length of your run and fitness goals. Plus, I’ll list the best foods for optimal recovery and why you’ll want to consume them. 

Best Foods to Eat After a Run

After a run, you want to focus on high-quality carbohydrate sources. Healthy carbs include minimally processed, whole foods like whole grains, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and dairy sources. You’ll also need a complete protein source for muscle recovery to get all the amino acids your body needs. Of course, you also want healthy fats and plenty of fluids. (4

Depending on the time of day and how you feel, you might want a quick beverage, a small post-run snack, or a larger meal. Choose your favorites from this list of the best foods to eat after a run and combine as you desire.

All of the nutritional information for the following foods comes from the FoodData Central page on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. (5)


Chocolate Milk

Nut Butter


Sweet Potatoes

Whole Grains



Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese

Protein Shake

Protein Bar


Drinking water after a run is important, but you also lose sodium and other electrolytes when you sweat. Electrolytes are a group of essential minerals that help maintain fluid balance in your cells. Examples include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride. (6)

Replenishing electrolytes may be more important for endurance athletes, long-distance running, or any length of run in the heat. You can get a pre-made sports drink or make your own homemade electrolyte drink by adding them to water.

Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk is a popular post-run drink because it has a 4:1 carbs-to-protein ratio. It also contains vitamin D, leucine (aka the muscle-building amino acid), and sodium. Research shows drinking chocolate milk after endurance training helps exercise recovery and may reduce muscle damage. It’s also quick and easy. (7)

One cup of chocolate milk contains eight grams of protein, 26 grams of carbs, and 8.4 grams of fat.

Nut Butter

Peanut butter and other nut butters are a great addition to a post-run snack or sandwich. They’re rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, and protein. Add some to a carb source like an apple, banana, or whole-grain bread. You’ll likely need some more protein.

[Read More: Nut Protein Really Isn’t That Great]

A two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains eight grams of protein, seven grams of carbs, and 16 grams of fat.


If you want a quick carb source in fruit form, a banana is an excellent choice because it’s also high in potassium, an electrolyte. Add nut butter for some healthy fat and a little protein.

A 100-gram banana has 1.1 grams of protein, 22.8 grams of carbs, and 0.3 grams of fat.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are technically vegetables, but they’re starchy, so they’re high in carbs, making them ideal for post-run nutrition. They’re also high in antioxidants. Add nut butter to sweet potatoes for a quick snack, or make them part of a post-run meal with more veggies and lean protein.

One cup of cooked sweet potatoes with skin contains four grams of protein, 41.4 grams of carbs, and 0.3 grams of fat.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are complex carbs and a great part of a post-run snack or meal. 

For a post-run sandwich, add a protein source to whole grain bread or a bagel.

One slice of whole-wheat bread contains 3.9 grams of protein, 13.7 grams of carbs, and 1.1 grams of fat.

A 100-gram whole wheat bagel contains 9.3 grams of protein, 54.5 grams of carbs, and zero grams of fat.

For a post-run meal, you might want to do quinoa or brown rice.

A one-cup serving of quinoa has 8.1 grams of protein, 39.4 grams of carbs, and 3.5 grams of fat.

One cup of brown rice has 5.5 grams of protein, 51 grams of carbs, and 1.96 grams of fat.


Eggs are a complete protein source that make a good post-run snack or meal addition. They’re also high in B vitamins. Add them to a slice of whole-grain toast for a carb source.

[Read More: Is This TikTok Trend Diet Worth Trying? A Registered Dietitian Cracks Open the Egg Diet]

One large egg contains six grams of protein, 0.5 grams of carbs, and five grams of fat.


If you’re making a post-run meal, any lean protein source will work. Salmon is a good option because it is also rich in healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 benefits include better muscle recovery and heart health.

A three-ounce serving of salmon contains 17 grams of protein and five grams of fat. There are zero carbs in salmon, so be sure to add your carb source.

Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese

Greek yogurt and cottage cheese (or non-dairy alternatives) are both high in calcium, carbohydrates, and protein. They make a great breakfast bowl or addition to a savory recipe. You can also use them in protein shakes instead of protein powder

You can add more carbs to your bowl by topping it with nut butter, berries, banana, or your fruit of choice and topping it with granola.

A 200-gram serving of low-fat Greek yogurt yields 20 grams of protein, 7.9 grams of carbs, and 3.8 grams of fat.

A 113-gram serving of low-fat cottage cheese packs 14 grams of protein, three grams of carbs, and one gram of fat.

Protein Shake

Health professionals generally recommend getting most of your nutrients through whole foods and adding supplements as a boost. Protein shakes, pre-made or homemade, are a quick and easy way to get post-run nutrition. If you do dairy, whey protein is a high-quality choice, and soy protein is a great alternative. 

Credit: Ground Picture / Shutterstock

Be sure to add plenty of carbs with fruits, veggies, nut butter, or chocolate milk. 

A one-scoop serving of whey protein contains 25 grams of protein, two grams of carbs, and 0.5 grams of fat.

One scoop of soy protein has 25 grams of protein, 13 grams of carbs, and 2.5 grams of fat.

Protein Bar

Protein bars can also be helpful in a pinch. You can make your own or buy one. Look for recovery bars with a good carbs-to-protein ratio to help you recover better after a ruin.

What Post-Run Nutrition Do You Need?

When it comes to deciding what to eat after a workout, you typically want a good blend of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats that fit into your daily macros. If your goal is to gain muscle or lose body fat, you’re probably used to focusing on protein. 

But the type of workout you’re doing matters. For post-run nutrition, you need more carbs because they help refill your glycogen stores. You still need protein for muscle repair, regardless of your goal. Plus, healthy fats and plenty of hydration.

[Read More: Running Fuel: How, What, and When to Eat For Optimal Performance, According to RDs]

Athletes (along with everyone else) also need the following micronutrients after hard training: (4)



Vitamin D


Vitamin C 

Vitamin E. 

Whether you’re doing a sprint workout, intense endurance training, or focusing on muscle gain or fat loss, your macros and carbs-to-protein ratio may vary. Check out BarBend’s personalized macros calculator since your daily goals will change based on your body weight, goals, and other factors. 

Macronutrient Calculator






Activity Level

Adjust Protein

Total Calories: Per Day

Your Daily Macronutrients:





After Sprint Workouts

For runners, the longer you run, the more nutrition you’ll need afterward. Though a sprint is shorter than most marathon training workouts, the intensity is high. 

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends a 3:1 or 4:1 carbs-to-protein ratio. The harder you work, the more carbs you’ll need to replenish your glycogen stores. (8)

After a sprint workout, you could try a 3:1 carbs-to-protein ratio and think of it as part of your daily macros. 

After Endurance Training

Endurance athletes generally need to consume a high carbohydrate diet, which the ISSN defines as eight to 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day. For protein, research suggests endurance athletes need 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight daily. (9)(10

For long-distance running that requires quick replenishment, they recommend getting 0.8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight with 0.2 to 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you need to recover to train again within four hours, you can continue with 1.2 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per hour. (9

Research also shows that getting 1.0 to 1.2 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per hour after exercise yields the fastest muscle glycogen replenishment. (4)

If you’re doing distance running but don’t need as much, you can still aim for a 3:1 or 4:1 carbs-to-protein ratio. Another way of thinking of the ratio is 60 to 70 percent carbohydrates and 15 to 20 percent protein and fats.

[Read More: Nutrition for Athletes — How to Eat for Muscle and Performance]

There is no standard recommendation for hydration for how much you need since it varies based on heat, the intensity of your run, and your individual body needs. If you’re running for more than 70 minutes, the ISSN suggests adding electrolytes and carbs to your water when rehydrating. (6

Other research suggests avoiding dehydration (losing more than two to four percent of your body mass) while also being sure not to over hydrate. (11)

For Building Muscle

If you’re trying to build muscle but also enjoy running, balancing running and strength training is key. Ensure you get enough calories and protein to reach your goal. The same guidelines may apply for post-run nutrition if you’re doing a sprint workout or a longer run, but you might be aiming for a higher daily protein intake than an endurance athlete.

Try BarBend’s protein calculator to get specific on your daily protein needs. 

Protein Intake Calculator






Activity Level

Do you know your body fat percentage?


Total Calories: 1699 Per Day

Daily protein intake recommendation:



Generally recommended


Exercise: 15-30 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
Intense exercise: 45-120 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
Very intense exercise: 2+ hours of elevated heart rate activity.

Research advises bodybuilders to get 2.8 to 7.5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day, while strength athletes may aim for 4.2 to eight grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day. (12)

After a run, you can use the 3:1 or 4:1 carbs-to-protein ratio, depending on how long it was, but continue getting more protein (20 to 25 grams per snack or meal) throughout the rest of your day to optimize muscle protein synthesis. (13)

For Losing Weight

If your goal is weight loss, you may be in a calorie deficit and trying to burn more calories than you take in. There is also a common misconception that eating fewer carbs helps you lose weight. But if you are running, you still need plenty of calories, carbs, and protein to help you recover.

Timing your higher carb and calorie intake around your workouts may help you stay in your calorie deficit, but “use” them to refuel your body. 

A high-protein diet may also help with fat loss — protein increases satiety (feeling full), has a high thermic effect (so your body burns more energy to digest it), and helps you preserve muscle mass as you burn body fat. (14)

The ISSN recommends getting 2.3 to 3.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for fat loss. (15)

The same ratio suggestions apply if you are sprinting or taking a longer run, but you may want to try a 3:1 or 2:1 carbs-to-protein ratio. 

Benefits of Good Post-Run Nutrition

Why take the time to have a high-quality recovery snack or meal? It helps set you up for your next great run — here’s how.


Each individual is different, but when you sweat, you may lose anywhere from half a liter to four liters of water, along with up to 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Rehydrating your body with water, sodium, and other electrolytes can help prevent dehydration. (16)

Replacing electrolytes is most important for endurance athletes and distance running, especially in the heat. However, everyone can benefit from rehydrating with plain water after any run. You can also include hydrating fruits and veggies in your post-run snack or meal. (17)

Refills Glycogen Stores

When you consume carbohydrates, your body gets glucose and stores it in your cells as glycogen. Your body then uses your glycogen stores as its primary source of energy for high-intensity exercises like running. After your run, your muscle glycogen gets depleted, and you need to refill it. (5)

Credit: Davor Geber / Shutterstock

[Read More: High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods Worth Subbing Into Your Diet]

Consuming carbs and protein together after your run helps refill your glycogen stores so you’ll have more energy for your next run. It also helps repair muscle damage. (5)

Starts Muscle Repair

Running is hard on your body, even though it’s good stress. Though some may associate muscle recovery more with resistance training, you need it after a run, too. If you’re a strength athlete or bodybuilder who runs, all the more reason to get plenty of protein in after your run since it also contributes to muscle growth.

[Read More: How to Speed Up Muscle Strain Recovery]

Consuming carbs and protein after your run kickstarts the recovery process. It helps repair muscle tissue, rebalances hormonal activity, decreases muscle damage, and generally improves post-exercise recovery. (5)

May Decrease Inflammation

Including antioxidants in your post-run nutrition may help decrease inflammation and potentially lessen muscle soreness. If you’re doing a protein shake, whey protein is high in the amino acid cysteine, which helps produce the antioxidant glutathione. 

Some research suggests glutathione in whey can help fight temporary oxidative stress caused by high-intensity training and boost your immune system during exercise recovery. (18)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is best to eat after a run?

After a run, it’s best to rehydrate with water (with or without electrolytes) and refuel with a combination of high-quality carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Carb examples include bananas, sweet potatoes, and whole grains. Protein examples include salmon or another lean protein, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. You can also do a quick protein shake, protein bar, or chocolate milk.

What foods should you not eat after a run?

Foods high in saturated fat and fiber may slow digestion and nutrient absorption. 

Should you eat a lot of protein after a run?

You can eat 20 to 25 grams of protein after a run, but remember that you want more carbs than protein — a 3:1 or 4:1 carbs-to-protein ratio is recommended for endurance athletes.

How soon after running should you eat?

Eating within 30 to 60 minutes can help with refilling glycogen stores, even if it’s a quick drink, bar, snack, or shake until you can have a more substantial post-run meal.

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.


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