Mileage, pace, shoes, the weather—runners worry about a lot of things, but are you paying enough attention to post-long run nutrition? When you run long or hard, you create microscopic muscle tears in your legs. In order to rebuild that muscle (and ultimately get stronger and faster), you need to fuel with high quality foods.
Whether you have the time and energy to cook or just need to grab-and-go, we have eight fueling options that will help you recover from your next long run.
If You've Still Got Energy to Cook
Each egg provides six grams of protein and all nine amino acids. They're also inexpensive and easy to prepare. Try them scrambled with your favorite cheese and a handful of spinach or boil them ahead of time and store them in the fridge for a quick post-run snack.
2. Baked potato
Whether you like brown-skinned russets or vibrant-hued sweet potatoes, this veggie can be a runner's best friend. A medium potato has just over 100 calories and is a good source of fiber and vitamin C. The latter is important because it aids in the body's healing process (take that, sore legs!) and combats free radicals, which are often produced during high intensity exercise. Top a medium baked potato with a cup of chili for a good combination of protein and carbohydrates.
Related: Easy Breakfast Potatoes for Runners
3. Homemade smoothie made with tart cherries (or their juice)
A study found that marathoners who consumed tart cherry juice had faster muscle recovery and showed lower levels of inflammation. Plus, it tastes great! Combine 1 cup of tart cherries (or 8 ounces of juice) with 1 cup of plain yogurt and a fresh or frozen banana. Blend until you reach your desired consistency—you may need to add water to thin it out a bit.
4. Green salad topped with salmon
Salmon is a great post-run food because it provides plenty of lean protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and may even help to prevent arthritis and heart disease. The greens from the salad will also add a dose of fiber and antioxidants—essential to a well-rounded diet. Make it easy on yourself and prep the fish in advance the night before your long run. If you're looking for a full-proof cooking method, try baking 5-ounce fillets for 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven.