Rebecca Jaspan, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
Whether you just completed the New York City marathon, your Sunday long run, or a good strength session in the gym, post workout nutrition is paramount to recovery. Race recovery begins the moment you have crossed the finish line. Right after your workout or race, you should aim to replace fluids lost through sweat and restore glycogen stores. This can be done with water and pretzels, chocolate milk, or a sports drinks. Within 45 minutes to 2 hours after, you should incorporate protein along with carbohydrates to rebuild muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and reduce muscle soreness.1 As a rule of thumb, aim for snacks or meals that have a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.2
Post-workout nutrition focuses mainly on protein and carbohydrates, so where does fat come in? While fat is an important macronutrient for absorption of fat soluble vitamins, hormone production, and reduction of inflammation, there is some evidence for limiting fat consumption right after an intense workout or race. Fat slows gastric emptying, which would decrease the rate at which carbohydrates enter the bloodstream to replenish glycogen stores. After eating carbohydrates, insulin spikes, which plays an important role in building muscles and beginning the repair process. Fat blunts this insulin spike, slowing the shift from catabolism, or breaking down, to anabolism, building back up. Additional studies show that fat doesn’t play a large role in the recovery process, but having some fat in your post-workout meal or snack won’t reduce muscle protein breakdown and hinder your recovery.3
Protein bars are quick and convenient forms of recovery nutrition. Here are six of our favorites to meet your recovery needs.
These Kind bars are similar to the original variety in their texture and crunch, but have double the amount of protein. They also have 17 grams of carbohydrates and 6 grams of fiber to keep you full. These bars come in four different flavors, dark chocolate, crunchy peanut butter, almond butter dark chocolate, and caramel nut.
Clif Builders Bar have a whopping 20 grams of protein to jump start your recovery. They also contain 20% of your daily iron needs, which helps promote healthy muscle recovery. These bars are also gluten free and contain complete plant-based protein.
Kind Energy bars are a combination of five different grains in chocolate or peanut butter flavors. They contain 10 grams of protein and 34 grams of carbohydrates, perfect for replenishing and refueling.
Picky Bars were created with performance nutrition in mind. They combine fast-acting carbohydrates with plant-based protein to aid recovery. These bars have 24 grams of carbohydrates and 7 grams of protein and come in a variety of delicious flavors.
GoMacro Bars are made with different nut butters, nuts, and seeds to create a wholesome and easy post-workout snack. With 39 grams of carbohydrates and 11 grams of protein, they meet the 3:1 ratio needs for post-run recovery.
6. NuGo Bars
NuGo bars have a rice krispie-like texture with 11 grams of protein. They are also low in fat and are packed with important recovery nutrients such as calcium, B vitamins, vitamin C and potassium.
In addition to nutrition, don’t forget about post-race hydration. You’ll want to include a drink with electrolytes to replenish any you lose through sweat. For reduction of muscle soreness, give tart cherry juice a try. Studies show that runners who drink tart cherry juice immediately following a marathon had less muscle damage, soreness, inflammation and they also recovered faster.4
Have questions about post-race nutrition? Want a plan that is specific to your individual needs and goals? The dietitians at Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services can work with you to create a plan to set you up for successful racing and recovery.
- Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing [published correction appears in J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:18]. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:17. Published 2008 Oct 3. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-17
- Ivy JL, Goforth HW Jr, Damon BM, McCauley TR, Parsons EC, Price TB. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2002;93(4):1337-1344. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00394.2002
- Capaldo B, Gastaldelli A, Antoniello S, et al. Splanchnic and leg substrate exchange after ingestion of a natural mixed meal in humans. Diabetes. 1999;48(5):958-966. doi:10.2337/diabetes.48.5.958
- Howatson G, McHugh MP, Hill JA, et al. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010;20(6):843-852. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01005.x