Eat it

A Guide to Post Race Nutrition

One of the best things about running is the food. You can eat all the food. Some people become runners for this reason and this reason alone. We know a guy that runs a minimum of 80km per week just so he can devour a deep-fried swan with all the fixin’s every Saturday. But the thing is, you can’t just eat anything when you’re a runner. You’ve gotta look after your health. And that point is no more poignant than at the end of a race.

After finishing a race (and for the sake of this column, we’ll say a marathon), you might find that you are not hungry at all. This is not uncommon. But eating the right things in the first few hours after a marathon is the key to a swifter recovery. This month’s installment of Eat It contains no recipes. Instead, we’re going to talk about the best things you can eat after running fast for two hours and thirty-five seconds or more.


Carbs are your first stop after completing a race. You must replace the carbohydrates you just burned up. Chances are, someone wearing a lanyard and a big smile will hand you a banana when you cross the finish line (potassium to restore electrolyte balance plus some easy-on-the-gut carbs), but once that’s disappeared down your gullet, you’ll need a bigger source of carbs, preferably complex carbs. You might be tempted to eat pizza, but the surgeon general recommends quinoa, brown rice, and wholegrain pasta. Kick things off with a muesli bar or two and take it from there.

Lean Protein

Grilled chicken, salmon, tofu, turkey, tofurky, beans, lentils, and peas (legumes) are all rich in lean protein, which is what your body is screaming for at the end of a race. By the time that scream reaches your ears, however, it may sound like a call for a triple-decker cheeseburger on a bed of nacho fries with a side of fudge, but lean proteins like the ones listed above will better aid recovery and rebuild your muscles after you’ve flogged the crap out of them for 42.195 kilometers.

Fruit & Vegetables

This sounds pretty obvious, but it’s recommended you eat the most colorful fruits and vegetables and give the beige ones a wide berth for now. Berries, oranges, grapefruit, kumquat, watermelon, bananas—especially bananas—red peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens, apples, beetroot (definitely beetroot), peaches, pineapple, and coconut are just some of the hydrating, electrolyte-rich, inflammation-reducing, vitamin/mineral/antioxidant-loaded things you can eat after a marathon. We recommend you sit down and eat them all.


This final piece of nutrition advice—rehydrate—is beyond obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people finish a marathon and start drinking beer. Don’t do that. Have a single celebratory beer if you must, but drinking booze after putting your body through hell is just adding insult to injury. Be kind to yourself. Drink water. Or coconut water. Anything but ethanol. You may as well run the marathon and then start licking asbestos. Drink water. Lots of water.

You will hanker for junk food after your run, so don't feel bad if you cave (I mean, Sarah is a pro, and she's smashing a burger with a fork in the picture below), but if you can ignore the craving and eat well, you'll be better for it.