What Should You Eat After a Marathon? Incorporate These 6 Food Groups

mental tips for running a marathon

You may be ready to pop a bottle of bubbly after finishing a marathon, but other choices will serve you better. So, just what should you eat after a marathon?

You’ve likely heard of runners undergoing a carb-loading period before a marathon. But did you know that what you eat after a marathon significantly impacts your recovery? I can tell you from firsthand experience that eating foods such as those high in carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes will help you recover faster after a marathon. 

Food Categories To Consume After a Marathon

Here’s the good news: You can and should consume a lot of food after a marathon. As a rough estimate, the average person burns 100 calories per one mile they run. So, given that a marathon is 26.2 miles, you’ll burn over 2,600 in a day.

And that number doesn’t even consider inclines or how intensely you run the miles. Needless to say, you can assume that you’ll burn more calories than the average person needs to consume in one day.

So, below are the food groups you should eat within to help you get back all those burned calories after a marathon. 

  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Food with electrolytes 
  • Fluid-packed food
  • Anti-inflammatory food
  • Recovery supplements

Complex Carbohydrates

what should you eat after a marathon
Complex carbohydrates will help to restore your energy.

Carbohydrates are equally as necessary after a race than before your marathon. That’s because you’ll have depleted your glycogen reserves, which are essential for energy. 

For this reason, you should consume lots of food containing complex carbs. I don’t know about you, but knowing I have a massive plate of whole wheat pasta to look forward to after a marathon keeps me going.  

Brown rice, oats, quinoa, and dry fruit are excellent ways to increase your glycogen stores.  

Protein

Even though you’re not a bodybuilder, you put your muscles through a lot of stress when running a marathon. So, eating plenty of protein is vital so that your body has enough fuel to repair muscle microtears.

Chicken, beef, and salmon are all excellent sources of protein. Vegetarians can opt for high-protein sources like eggs (with the yolk) and dairy. Vegans can get their protein from quinoa and nuts. 

The combination of protein and carbohydrates is a powerful way to help your body replenish its glycogen levels even faster.

Electrolytes

You don’t need me to tell you that you’ll sweat a lot during a marathon. As a result, you’ll lose an above-average level of electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium.

So, consider eating salted nuts, tomato juice, milk, and salted crackers to give your body a boost of sodium.

Potassium-rich foods include bananas, potatoes, white button mushrooms, and leafy greens.

Fluids

what should you eat after a marathon
Water-rich foods help you rehydrate.

If you’ve been in the marathon space for a while, you likely know the importance of weighing yourself before and after a race to figure out how much rehydration you’ll need.

While water and sports drinks are among the most effective ways to get fluids back into your system, you can use water-rich foods too.

Watermelon, pineapple, cucumber, and celery are some of the many foods that provide an excellent source of fluids. I hate to break it to you, but you should pass on the alcohol because it’s a diuretic.

Anti-inflammatory Food

Here’s the cold hard truth: You can’t complete a marathon without experiencing at least some inflammation. That’s because the repetitive nature of running breaks down muscle tissue.

The good news is that eating the right foods can help prevent inflammation from sticking around longer than it needs to. 

Fatty fish, berries, avocado, and bell peppers are excellent anti-inflammatory foods. It just so happens that many hydrating foods are also ideal for reducing inflammation.

Recovery Supplements

Admittedly, including supplements in an article on “What should you eat after a marathon?” is a bit of a stretch. However, creatine, vitamin C, and vitamin B12 are some of the many nutrients your body will benefit from post-marathon.

So, whether you consume your supplements in a powdered drink form or capsule, taking supplements after a marathon is an excellent way to ensure you’re getting well-rounded nutrition in addition to the food you’re eating.

Foods To Avoid After a Marathon

Now you know the answer to the question “What should you eat after a marathon?” Let’s explore some foods that you should steer clear of after a marathon. 

Some of the worst foods to eat after a marathon include:

  • Processed, sugary foods
  • High-fat food
  • Single food groups

You’ll do a disservice to yourself if you only eat from a single food group (such as carbohydrates or protein), even if you’re eating the foods we recommended here. 

So, the best way to help your body recover as fast as possible after a marathon is to skip fats and sugars while consuming a variety of the foods listed in this article. 

It’s important not to underestimate the impact a marathon has on your body. To make sure you have taken all necessary precautions have a look at our article why do marathon runners collapse.

Similarly, it is as important to be mentally prepared. Make sure you check out mental tips for running a marathon.