Optimal Post-Marathon Recovery Nutrition

What are the best things a marathon runner can do to refuel, and aid recovery after the race? 

Your main nutrition objectives post-race: Replace fluids, carbs, salt and a little protein. Be sure to get all four of these key ingredients into your body within the first 30 minutes post-race to optimize your recovery.

Good choices: 
  • bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and 1 cup of fruit  
  • turkey sandwich on wheat bread, 1 to 2 pickles and 1 piece of fruit 
  • recovery drink such as Gatorade's Recovery drink  
  • energy bar such as the Clif Builder's Bar, which contains both carbs and protein 
  • plus adequate water to replace what was lost to sweat

More: Top Marathon Recovery Foods

Drink 24 ounces of total fluid per pound of body weight lost to sweat during that race. That means that if you lost two pounds during the race, you should drink 48 ounces of fluid over the next two hours.

What might you advise if runners' stomachs are upset, and they don't feel like eating after the race?

If your stomach is upset and you really don't feel like eating, force yourself to drink something salty. A sports drink, such as Gatorade Endurance Formula, is a great choice, and may help you stabilize your stomach enough so you can refuel. Chicken soup or any broth is another good start.

More: 10 Post-Run Drinks to Speed Recovery

Oftentimes upset stomachs or lack of appetite post-race is due to lack of liquid or salt intake (or both) during the run. A smoothie made of fruit and yogurt or fruit and low-fat milk is another great choice, as it provides carbs, protein and much-needed antioxidants to start repairing your tired and sore muscles.

More: Recovery Foods That Ease Muscle Soreness

One final tip is to include anti-inflammatory foods in the 24 to 48 hours post-race to help decrease muscle and joint inflammation that occurs when we run 26.2 miles. Good sources of omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) fats are certain types of fish—such as salmon—walnuts, avocados and olives.

More: Foods That Ease Inflammation

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