- To quell that starving sensation postrun, make sure your diet includes plenty of protein and healthy fats.
- Be sure you are properly hydrated before and after your training session.
- Prep your meals and snacks beforehand, so when you get back from a run, you have a balanced meal waiting for you.
Whether you’re marathon training or just have a long run on your schedule, you might find yourself coming back to the kitchen and devouring everything in sight—and still not being satisfied. This may leave you wondering how to control hunger that follows you long after your run ends. We’ve all been there, and there are things you can do to keep your nutrition on track. Here are the answers to your burning question around your burning metabolism.
Are there basic tips for how to control hunger postrun?
The most basic tip is to consider what and when you are eating after your run. Your postrun recovery meals and snacks should consist of carbohydrates and plenty of protein to replenish your energy stores and kick start the recovery process in your muscles. You should also include some healthy fats like those found in fish and avocado as they keep you feeling satiated. Protein- and carbohydrate-loaded foods like whole-grain breads or cereals, fruits, vegetables, eggs, lean meats, and vegetable protein.
After long runs, I find myself so hungry that I eat everything in sight and can’t stop! What gives?
It is very easy to eat all day after a long run and feel totally justified. All marathoners have likely done that at one time or another! Unfortunately, it is way too easy to out-eat our running, even when training for a marathon. This could be due to a number of things including being low on protein or carbs or needing to rehydrate. And, there are some easy things you can do to help curb your postrun appetite.
How soon after a long run should I eat?
Eat as soon as you can after finishing your run, preferably within 20 to 30 minutes, but don’t wait longer than two hours. If you feel like you just can’t eat after a run, try drinking your nutrition with a protein shake, but aim to take in some calories in the form of carbs and protein immediately following the workout.
Your body is designed to extract much-needed nutrients from your food quickly and efficiently after a long run, so don’t deny it. Long runs can cause micro tears in muscle tissue, so protein is necessary for building and repairing your muscles.
Carbohydrates are essential for refueling glycogen stores that become depleted on long runs. Long runs call for extra energy, via Gu or gels, which are loaded with sugar. They cause a spike in our blood sugar, which we need on the run, but what goes up must come down.
As blood sugar levels plummet, we take another supplement and the up, down, up, down creates a blood sugar roller coaster. It gets us through the long miles, but it's important to stabilize blood sugar levels as soon as you can. Eating the proper nutrition helps you gain control over your blood sugar. A long run affects your blood sugar for some time afterwards because your body remains in high gear for several hours postrun, causing blood sugar levels to continue to drop even though you are not exercising.
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Can fueling while I run help?
Yes. Another strategy for leveling out blood sugar levels is to try taking smaller amounts of your run nutrition at more frequent intervals on your long runs. For example, take a half or one third of a packet at a time rather than the entire packet.
This will give you the energy you need but smaller doses may help you avoid big spikes or falls in your blood sugar, making it easier for you to level out when you finish your run.
Am I just thirsty?
It’s common to mistake hunger for thirst, because our brain can mislead us sometimes by interpreting dehydration as hunger pangs, leading us to eat more than we really should or need to. Instead of eating, try drinking a large glass of water or a sports drink first or have a cup of herbal tea before you eat. Add some electrolytes to the mix, too—make certain you are not washing them out with additional fluids or sweat.
Should I eat before my run?
Eating a small meal before your long run may help you avoid overeating later in the day, too. Blood sugar levels are at their lowest in the morning after fasting all night, so a long run on top of already low blood sugar levels can get you in trouble. Top off your glycogen stores before your run to help prevent them from dipping too low by eating a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter or almond butter, an energy bar, or some whole grain cereal.
Your strategy to take charge of postrun hunger:
- Eat a small prerun breakfast.
- Ingest a smaller amount of run nutrition more frequently.
- Drink plenty of water. Have a large glass of water before eating anything every time you feel hungry.
- Have a protein shake or low-fat chocolate milk ready to drink within 20 to 30 minutes of finishing your run.
- Plan small nutritious postrun snacks and meals loaded with carbohydrates and protein.
Refueling options that include both protein and carbs:
- Greek yogurt, banana, and berries or a smoothie
- Low-fat chocolate milk and some fruit
- A protein shake with fruit
- Cereal and milk
- Bagel with protein, such as an egg or peanut butter, and a latté
- Pretzels and hummus
- Baked potato with cottage cheese
- Turkey sub
- Pasta and meatballs
Susan Paul has coached more than 2,000 runners and is an exercise physiologist and program director for the Orlando Track Shack Foundation. For more information, visit www.trackshack.com.