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What do I Eat after a Marathon?

Fall races are wrapping up with a bang after the TCS NYC Marathon this past weekend. Many runners have their race evening and race day nutrition plan lined out, but what are you supposed to do after the marathon is over with? By implementing some of these post-marathon recovery nutrition tips, you can help reduce soreness and recovery time. Want to get back to running and walk around without your muscles screaming at you days afterwards? Follow these post-marathon nutrition tips for optimal recovery.

Don't Forget about Timing

The first couple hours after crossing the finish line is a critical time for energy recouping and muscle rebuilding. It's easy to get distracted with the overwhelm of emotions, the crowd, and the shiny medals. You likely won't be feeling hungry either, and this is normal! After a long, hard effort, your body's cortisol levels are high which then suppress the hunger response. Give yourself the opportunity to take in the moment of accomplishing a MAJOR feat of completing a marathon, and celebrate with your support team! But don't forget to make recovery fuel and hydration a priority, even if you are not feeling hungry. Take advantage of the finish line snacks and hydration (if available).

So what finish line snacks should you grab?

All the carbs!!! You've just exhausted those glycogen (energy) stores out on the course. You can restore these by eating a variety of carb-based options. Many races have fruit, bagels, granola bars, Gatorade, and Powerade (with sugar - not the "zero" kind!). Some other options I have seen include chocolate milk, pancakes, and pizza (yes - pizza!).

If you can, get in some protein as it helps recover those muscles. Protein options can be hit or miss depending on the race. Options like chocolate milk and pizza are great as they contain both carbohydrates and protein. Some easy, packable protein options could be trail mix, protein bars, protein powder, nut butter pouches, cheese or peanut butter crackers (these last two options also contain carbs!).

And don't forget hydration! You'll need to replace that sweat you just lost over 26.2 miles. Because of the duration and effort, most will benefit from fluid with electrolytes in addition to water. Electrolytes, particularly sodium, are minerals lost in your sweat. Gatorade and Powerade are a good option, and are usually available at marathons. In addition to carbs and protein, chocolate milk contains water and electrolytes, making it the trifecta of post-marathon recovery fuel with carbs, protein and hydration.

Post-Marathon Meal

I recommend runners combine the food they are craving post-marathon and recovery nutrition needs.

START with, what sounds good right now?

Most runners end up craving something super specific, or a certain taste/texture after such a huge effort like a marathon. Are you craving sweet or salty? Warm or cold? Maybe it's a specific type of food like pasta or a hearty sandwich. Start there, and then build your meal around it.

My favorite post-run meals are an Everything Bagel (carbs) with cream cheese (fat), Lox (protein) and a fruit smoothie (color and more carbs!) or pancakes (carbs) with LOTS of peanut butter (protein and fat) and banana slices (color and more carbs!).

Here are some more post-marathon recovery meal examples:

Hamburger with salad and fries

Chipotle bowl with rice, shredded chicken, guac, sautéed vegetables and pico

Veggie omelet with avocado, diced potatoes and toast with jelly

French toast with syrup, fried eggs and fruit

What's your go-to post-marathon meal? Let me know in the comments!

Written by:

Maddi Osburn RDN LD

Owner & Founder Flexible Nutrition LLC


Are you training for a race and are interested in one on one nutrition coaching to fuel better, improve performance and hit a PR? Click here to learn more about working with Maddi.

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