A good hard run can always make you feel great.
Whether it's for weight loss, to build endurance or to keep lifestyle diseases at bay, running is an excellent exercise that you can do without the need for any special equipment or location.
However, a good run that does all this for you does take a temporary toll on your body, and you need to make sure that you don't lose out on the benefits you gain with the run. The best way to do this is to follow up your run with the right kind of foods.
It may feel like going for the run itself qualifies you to be able to eat whatever your heart desires, but beware! The wrong foods can completely mess up your fitness goals, and can even make you ill.
An intense workout like a strong run can lower the body’s glycogen levels and sweating takes away water along with minerals like sodium and potassium. What’s more muscles undergo wear and tear which need to be repaired.
The best solution for this is a combination of proteins and carbohydrates along with adequate hydration.
Here’s a list of the best foods to eat after a run, to boost your metabolism, repair muscles and restore energy.
Why: Bananas are a favourite of runners and workout enthusiasts, and for good reason. Bananas instantly provide a much needed burst of energy thanks to the carbohydrates in it. It is rich in potassium, a mineral lost during intense exercise, along with fibre, vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium and folate.
How: Bananas are super versatile - add them to a smoothie, to pancakes or top your oatmeal with them.
Why: Oranges work well as an after-run snack since they are light and easy on the stomach - a boon especially for those who tend to feel a little nauseous after a workout. Besides, it has lots of Vitamin C that helps to boost immunity, fight inflammation and boost recovery.
How: Orange juice is an easy option, but having the whole fruit is obviously better, in terms of getting more fibre.
Why: One obvious advantage of yogurt after a run is because of the muscle building protein it contains. But it also contains lots of calcium which is essential for strong bones. Besides, yogurt has healthy bacteria, which helps to maintain digestive health.
How: Go for unsweetened, unflavoured yogurt and have it with granola, nuts, seeds or fruit.
Why: Now this is something chocolate-lovers can get behind! Studies have shown that runners who had chocolate milk post workout had muscles which were able to rebuild themselves better. Chocolate milk also restores energy and boosts your mood, besides being travel friendly.
How: You can have a chocolate whey protein shake or a plain chocolate milk. Just be sure to use skimmed milk and cut down on the sugar.
Why: Lean meats like chicken and turkey are relatively low in calories but high in protein, making them perfect for those trying to trim their waist. Lean meats also increase satiety and contain mood-boosting tryptophan, which is great after a stressful workout.
How: There are numerous ways to have lean meats - with rice, in a wrap with vegetables or in soup.
Why: Eggs are one of the best sources of protein that provide amino acids, the building blocks, for muscle repair. They are also full of healthy fats and a whole range of essential minerals and vitamins that boost overall health and recovery.
How: Eggs can be had boiled or scrambled; in a sandwich, on toast or as an omelette stuffed with vegetables.
Why: With 9 grams of complete protein per cup of cooked quinoa, even NASA recommends it for astronauts on long-term space missions! It contains all the nine amino acids that our bodies can't produce naturally. It's also a gluten free option for those who have trouble with other complex carbs like wheat.
How: Quinoa can be had in a salad and can replace rice in most dishes with meat and vegetables.
Why: When running, carbohydrates are the body's main source of fuel, stored as glycogen. After an intense run, glycogen levels drop, which can be regained with complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are also rich in fibre, beta-carotene, Vitamin C and potassium.
How: Sweet potatoes can be baked and topped with herbs for a delicious meal, or it can be chopped and added to other vegetable stir fries or curries.
Nuts and Seeds
Why: All nuts and seeds are rich in protein as well as healthy fats, which help in hormone production. Nuts and seeds also enhance bone health and reduce the stress caused by running. Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds are great options, along with nuts like almonds and walnuts.
How: Have nut butter on multigrain bread, or mix them into smoothies, salads or oatmeal
Why: Dried beans like chickpeas are an excellent plant based protein. Being chock full of fibre means that it keeps you full and prevents overeating. In short, chickpeas help build muscle, support recovery and encourage your weight loss goals.
How: Cooked chickpeas can be turned into hummus and served with veggie sticks. You can also have them as a roasted chickpeas snack, or in a curry.
When you eat is also as important as what you eat. Muscles are most likely to rebuild and repair within the first 30 minutes after your run, so eating during this window can reduce post-run soreness. Focus on hydration for the first 20-30 minutes after the run, either with plain water or electrolyte-laden water. Within an hour of your run, go ahead and eat something more substantial. Put together a healthy meal with the foods listed above - you've earned it!
(Pratibha Pal spent her childhood in idyllic places only fauji kids would have heard of. She grew up reading a variety of books that let her imagination wander and still hopes to come across the Magic Faraway Tree. When she's not rooting for eco-living or whipping up some DIY recipes to share with her readers, Pratibha is creating magic with social media. You can view her blog at www.pratsmusings.com or reach to her on Twitter at @myepica.)