at the races How to Help Your Body Recover After a Long Run

How to Help Your Body Recover After a Long Run


Long runs are part of training. There’s no other way to be a successful endurance athlete than putting in the kilometres. It’s hard. It takes a long time. And you need to do it again and again. So, since you’re doing it, you need to embrace proper downtime to ensure your body heals between runs. What are the best strategies for post-run recovery? Here’s a quick checklist of the things to do to ensure you get back on track faster after pushing yourself to run for several miles.

1. Replenish and Rehydrate

You lose a lot of fluids when running through sweat. After you’ve cooled down, the first thing to do is replenish your body’s liquid reserve. Experts recommend drinking 24 ounces of fluids for every pound you’ve shed off. It can be in the form of water, shake or smoothie. 

You don’t just evaporate body fluids when running—you also lose electrolytes, such as magnesium, sodium, phosphate and chloride. To restore their internal levels, eat a light snack consisting of bananas, oranges, strawberries or spinach. Refrain from rehydrating with energy drinks as they may cause a sudden sugar spike. 

2. Stretch It Out

While cooling down, do some gentle, static stretches. It’s as important as the warm-up. Allow your heart rate to go back to normal with some relaxing poses, like standing stretches or side bends. Doing so helps soothe tight and fatigued muscles and aids in recovery.

3. Carb Up

After a demanding activity, you must adequately nourish your body. What’s the best post-run recovery meal? Nutritionists recommended protein, carbohydrates and micronutrients to replenish glycogen and build stronger muscles after an exhausting sprint.

When you run, the body uses glycogen as the energy source to sustain high-intensity activities. Stores are broken down during exercise to provide fuel, depleting your reserves. 

Refuel afterward by eating 1.5 grams of carbs per kilogram of your body weight within 30 minutes following the race and doing it again two hours later. Each meal should contain 20-30 grams of protein, sourced from either meat or soy products. Include vegetables, whole grains and fruits in your recovery meal. 

4. Take Supplements

Try branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements to speed up your recovery. They’re a popular pre-workout diet addition among athletes who want to enhance their performance and boost muscle growth. However, they’re also effective in minimizing fatigue post-exercise and accelerating recovery.

A review revealed that BCAA doses of up to 255 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day for mild to moderate exercise-induced damage could reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness after 24-72 hours. Taking omega-3 supplements or eating more seafood may help lower heart rate and blood pressure while improving the function of blood vessels. Researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids—especially DHA and EPA—helped support recovery after exercise.

Taking supplements may help soothe soreness and fatigue after a demanding activity. 

5. Sleep Your Way to Recovery

The best advice is to get adequate rest. Experts recommend getting between 7-9 hours of quality snoozing every night, especially after strenuous exercise. 

During sleep, the anabolic hormones that stimulate muscle growth, insulin and protein synthesis repair the tissues. It helps you recover from fatigue, pain and muscle sores and improve your immune system. 

6. Avoid Alcohol

Based on a study, athletes are more likely to experience alcohol problems with 53.3% of student-athletes binge drinking within a given month. A glass of beer or wine can be tempting when celebrating your fitness achievement. However, give it a pass—especially since it weakens your immune system and shoots up your blood pressure. 

After just one glass, it can take the body approximately two hours to revert to normal, depending on your liver’s ability to process ethanol, the compound in alcohol. Postpone drinking until you feel fully restored to avoid compromising your efforts to recover from the strain or else try a non-alcoholic beer like Athletic Brewing.

7. Reduce Soreness With Light Exercise

Two or more days after the race, your body is still likely sore and inflamed, a normal physiological response to an exhausting activity. The lingering soreness and pain may tempt you to skip the gym, but don’t do it. Instead of being sedentary, tone down your exercise intensity and do gentle stretches and other light movements. 

A study found that inactivity can resist the metabolic benefits of acute exercise. Participants were divided into two — the first group was inactive, sitting for most of the day, while the second group did the same but also had an hour of treadmill exercise. Researchers found the one-hour vigorous exercise failed to improve glucose, lipid and insulin metabolism levels the next day. They conclude being inactive can negate the metabolic benefits of physical activities.  

8. Consume a Healthy Plate

Food is a medicine for the body, so continue eating healthy. A runner’s diet should consist of the following: 

  • Lean protein: Fish, beans, lentils, tofu and poultry.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Bananas, beets, blueberries, sweet potatoes and spinach.
  • Healthy fats: Olive, nuts and avocado.
  • Carbohydrates: Rice, whole grain bread or pastas and oatmeal.

Meanwhile, avoid the following foods: 

  • Spicy dishes high in fat can cause stomach upset.
  • Foods high in fiber can cause gas and cramping.
  • Caffeine can trigger stomach aches, diarrhea or the need for an emergency bathroom break.

Do These Effective Post-run Recovery Strategies 

Running takes a significant toll on health. For days, muscle soreness and pain may limit your mobility. Make sure you follow these post-run strategies to nourish your body back to its optimal function.