The Post-Run Refuel: Why 30 minutes is your winning window of opportunity

Dairy overload comes to mind in watching the Cal Fenton’s Creamery 5k video. Yesterday was Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s so I hope you all got your ice cream on…too bad it was only one scoop for free and not a bucket or we could have all gone out and seen how fast we could truck a 5k after devouring it all. πŸ˜‰ Half Baked flavor for me!! Hehe.
ice cream
Dairy is NOT my prime choice for pre-race fuel, and I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s not an advised choice for any runner, you want something that will sit easy in the stomach. Think bland, plain, and boring too perhaps, but for pre-race and pre-run you’re eating for energy and sometimes that isn’t tantalizing on the taste buds. I’ve got an article featured in Running Times HERE all about pre-run fueling and how to best time your eats, but today will be about the post-run refuel.

30 minutes. Grind that into your brain because that is the golden ticket to recovery…that’s your window of opportunity to replenish those depleted glycogen stores and repair your muscles. You wait just 31 minutes or longer and recovery rates drop by at least 60%. What will that lost recovery look like later:

* More sluggish on your next runs
* More soreness in the muscles
* Lost chance to repair the muscle fiber tears incurred from your run
* Missed chance of coming back stronger, faster, and fitter for your next runs and workouts


Hey, cake with a side of protein totally works! πŸ˜‰

Over time that could mean potential PR’s and precious seconds gone out the window. Nobody wants that, you work your butt off running the miles, don’t let something as ‘easy’ as just raising food to mouth quickly after a run hold you back in training and racing.

While pre-run foods may have to be bland, the rules of the post-run noshes are loosened up a lot…you don’t have to worry about any GI problems or stomach aches to run with! Still, for those first 30 minutes you do want to be conscious of two important things:

* Protein
* Carbs –
preferably some that are digested quickly and absorbed into your system fast, like high GI foods for example

You want the protein because those amino acids are imperative for repairing those broken down muscle tissues and building them back up stronger. You want carbs to replace the lost glycogen used during your workout and for the immediate restock of energy. Here is a time when you can loosen the reins on opting for only the whole grain type of carbs, that white bread is your friend here because it is digested quicker and will get into your system within those precious 30 minutes.

Fruit is an excellent choice, and a banana is prime example post-run fuel if you combine it with some cottage cheese, greek yogurt, or peanut butter and you’re good to go. Convenience can be an issue, and here is where sports bars or even drinks can help in a pinch; if you’re out on a trail it may not be feasible to whip out a pan and make some pancakes and eggs!

cinnamon rolls

Eggs and cinnamon buns, baby! πŸ™‚

The thing with the 30 minute window is that it doesn’t have to be a full meal or ice cream gluttony. At least enough to tide you over until you have a full meal…it can be half a turkey sandwich, fruit and protein source, or a bar. But if you go with a bar make it one that is at least around 200 calories and with upwards of 10 grams of protein…not one of those measly 100 calorie bars, that’s not enough.

From there feel free to take a shower (or maybe not, hey, if you stink that’s your issue not mine) and head on out to get your real meal grub on. If you’re in training, there is more than just putting in the workouts if you want to maximize your full potential, there are the ‘little’ things that while they may seem ‘little’ in theory, when added up over time they make a huge impact. Not just in performance but with reducing your chance of injury and allowing your training to be consistent. Among the ‘little things are stretching, self-massage, warming up, and nutrition.

30 minutes. Time those post-run eats right so you can come back and demolish that next workout…or that next ice cream glutton fueled 5k. πŸ˜‰

1) Do you pay attention to getting in those protein and carb sources within 30 minutes prior to your workout?

2) What is your favorite protein/carb post-workout combo?

3) Have you ever run a food/race kind of challenge? If so, what and how did you do?
I’ve done the soda mile a few times back in high school, I will say I’m a little proud to say I hold the record AND I never got DQ’ed for barfing…hehe. πŸ™‚

4) What ‘little’ things do you do to prevent your risk of injury or improve your running and workouts?

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26 thoughts on “The Post-Run Refuel: Why 30 minutes is your winning window of opportunity

  1. i NEED to get better at the 30 min timing window. i always start a run thinking i cant wait till its over so i can eat. and then i am not hungry. haha. figures. i usually throw an apple in my bag so that by the time i leave the gym i have something handy thats quick and easy but i could definitely get more protein in obviously. if its close enough for a meal…its pbj every single time πŸ™‚ happy wednesday friend! hope you are having a good week!

    • i know, i’m guilty of missing the window too! i actually did the post also as a reminder for myself, i’m making it a goal to NOT miss this window even tho i’m only cross-training…set the right pattern for when i get back to running. πŸ™‚

  2. Yeah, I’m pretty good at eating within 30 minutes. But’s usually cause I go out hungry ~ ha ha.
    I try to get in some regular yoga stretches for my legs — that seems to help me with injuries.
    Enjoyed your post πŸ™‚

    My Running Shortz

  3. YUM cinnamon bun refuel would be my #1 choice!!!
    I try for 30-min, and I know that the harder my run=the more my muscles NEED to be refueled…but my body is not on the same thought pattern, it’s tough for me to eat after a run, usually takes me closer to an hour to be ready…so I’ve started to trick my body with protein shakes πŸ™‚
    Another thing that’s helping me be able to fuel post-run is that I begin my run’s a little on the hungry-side (trying to teach my body to create it’s own fuel) and I come back ready for some re-fueling (apple & Fage is my go-to!)
    I hope you’ve been having a great week!

    • ya, part of it is that even if i start a run hungry by the end i’m not, like u pointed out. so that’s a time when going the liquid route is an easy option. πŸ™‚

  4. I’m more of a ‘as soon as I stop running stuffing banana and peanut butter into my mouth’ kinda girl. I usually eat within 15 min & sometimes add toast if I’m really hungry! Love the post, so many people miss that 30 min window!

  5. First of all, HALF BAKED IS THE BEST! Just had to put that out there. I’m totally with you on the post workout refuel. I personally do the whole chocolate milk thing, except I prefer vanilla so I drink that instead! I’ve also read up on the benefits of tart cherry juice and pairing that with protein post workout. I feel like a lot of people say that they aren’t hungry after workouts and don’t eat in an effort to lose weight or something. I can’t say I’m starving afterwards, but performance comes first so I’ll be getting something down no matter what!

    • “performance comes first” awesome motto to live by. ummm, i’ll shout HALF BAKED IS THE BEST right back at u!! hehe. that said, i’ve heard all about the choc. milk, but the cherry juice is a new one to me, i’m going to be checking that out, thanks! πŸ™‚

  6. I definitely refuel within usually 15 minutes. I take in a mixed fluid recovery drink or make my own smoothies. I still struggle with recovery though as I have a problem with insomnia! Oh sleep! And children (ha, that will feed the insomnia). My favorite is what I call The ReCoothie: Tart greek yogurt (non-fat), frozen black berries, tart cherry juice, vanilla whey protein powder. Blend that up and yummmmmmy! Goodness to go.

    • yummy!! thanks for sharing ur refuel fix of choice…i’ll have to give that one a short. i struggle with insomnia too and it’s a tricky bugger…for u adding kids to the mix and i dunno how u awesome moms manage! πŸ™‚

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  12. Wick informative post – thanks! I never knew about the “30 min window” I know its good to have protein after a run but generally I don’t eat till at least an hour after. I’ll have to start changing that and start having a refueling snack after my runs!

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