I completed my first marathon a little over a year ago. Part of what really helped me accomplish what felt like a phenomenal feat was the training I received. Each week track club volunteers took us out for training miles, which we endured in the brutal summer heat. Some weeks there were post-run seminars that covered all sorts of things like running shoes and what to eat pre and post run. Here is what I learned about eating after exercise.

Timeliness Matters

Especially if you have had a hard workout you will want to take in quality nutrients within the first 30 minutes or so after you exercise. Eating within this window will give your muscles a good start on rebuilding.

Quality Counts

Aim for quality nutrition that replenishes your cells and generates energy. Snacks that include protein and carbs are a good choice. The seminar I attended was led by a nutritionist that happened also to be a runner. She suggested chocolate milk. That is a good choice because it has a good carb to protein ratio. Need a little more? Have some Greek yogurt and fruit, or peanut butter on a whole wheat bagel – again protein and carbs. One more tip, go for low fat milk to avoid unnecessary fat and calories.

Hydration is important

Sure, sports drinks are all the rage but unless you’re exercising for more than an hour water is fine. You will need about 2 cups for every one pound you lose through sweat. This formula is especially important for outdoor or summer time exercise. Here is an example: Jill weighs 135 pounds before she exercises. After exercise, Jill weighs 133 pounds. That means Jill should drink at least 32 ounces of water (that’s four cups or two bottled waters). Other beverages count, too – except alcohol, of course (just be mindful of the sugar and calories in soda and juice drinks).

Moderation Matters, Too

One of the things our seminar leader cautioned against was overeating. Exercise is not an excuse to eat everything you want. Instead it is another reason to choose food well. Let your diet support and advance, rather than sabotage, your fitness goals. So yes, you have had a great workout; turkey slices wrapped around a cheese stick would be a reasonable choice to help rebuild glycogen stores – a platter of nachos…probably not. Keep post workout snacks on hand so you don’t arrive at your refrigerator ravenous. Things that travel well include bananas, apples, yogurt (in winter), and peanut butter.

A final piece of easy to remember advice – When you’re planning your post exercise snack remember this, go for something with protein and carbs, ideally low in fat and easily digestible.