What to Eat After a Half Marathon

Two Female Runners Finishing Race Together
two woman finishing a marathon (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

A half marathon is a 13.1-mile race that requires an immense investment of time, energy and research regarding the correct training regimen and nutrition. Nutrition leading up to the race has its own set of rules, and after the race, particular foods improve immediate and longer-term recovery. A long run puts stress on the body, and particular nutrients help restore it to prerace form.

Healthy Smoothie

blueberry smoothie
fresh, healthy smoothie topped with blueberries (Image: inerika/iStock/Getty Images)

Immediately after a half marathon, the muscles need protein to begin repairment and complex carbohydrates to restore lost glycogen stores. Consumed within 15 minutes of completing a race, a smoothie that has these nutrients helps you begin your recovery, according to the American Council on Exercise. A smoothie with almond butter, milk, blueberries, flaxseed powder and yogurt provides a variety of nutrients and fluids. If you're sensitive to lactose, substitute almond milk for the dairy milk.

Potassium

Carrots
fresh carrot sticks (Image: boumenjapet/iStock/Getty Images)

Potassium is an important mineral that balances fluid levels, which is integral to rehydration. Restoring sodium is often highlighted in running-nutrition information, but potassium and sodium must remain in balance. Restoring potassium after a race simply requires eating fruits and vegetables. Carrot sticks, an apple or a handful of dried fruit immediately after the race and a salad or a side of vegetables at the first full meal after the race can restore potassium.

Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats

berry dessert
fruit berry sorbet (Image: Liv Friis-Larsen/iStock/Getty Images)

A balanced meal within two to four hours after the race is essential for recovery, according to the American Council on Fitness. Complete nutrient recovery frequently takes as long as 72 hours. A meal that includes a healthy balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and monounsaturated fats is ideal after the race. Examples include roasted salmon with fennel salad and garlic mashed potatoes or lamb kabobs with cherry tomatoes and onions and a lemon cucumber dressing with rice. A light dessert, such as a berry compote or fruit sorbet, is a satisfying post-race treat.

Hydration

Slice of watermelon
slice of watermelon (Image: Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images)

Consuming plenty of fluids after the race is essential. Colorado State University recommends 2 cups of fluid for each pound lost during the race. Besides water and beverages with electrolytes, food is a source of fluid. Fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, berries, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, tomatoes and cucumbers have high water content, as do grains that absorb water during the cooking process, such as rice, pasta, millet, couscous and quinoa.

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