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Best Foods to Refuel After Running

For runners, optimal performance is dependent on both your pre and post workout meals. After a hard workout, the primary focus of your meal should be glycogen replacement. Glycogen is a type of carbohydrate that is stored in your muscles and liver. It is an important fuel source during exercise, especially during endurance events.

Athletic performance is dependent on the amount of stored glycogen in the body. When your body runs low on muscle glycogen you reach a point where you can’t possibly continue exercising. In marathon running, this is called “hitting the wall.” Though an average person has approximately 1500 calories of stored glycogen, endurance training can lead to an enhanced ability for glycogen storage in muscles. This will allow you to train harder and longer. You can capitalize on this enhanced ability for glycogen storage by adding more carbohydrates to your post-workout meal.

Since glycogen stores are often depleted after strenuous exercise, they should be restored within 30 minutes post-workout. This is when your body is most efficient at getting using carbohydrates to produce glycogen for your muscles. Exercise physiologists have examined the importance of refueling after exercise by taking trained athletes and having them cycle on two separate occasions ingesting a 25% carbohydrate solution either immediately after exercise or two hours later. Three muscle biopsies were performed. One was executed immediately after exercise. The second one was done two hours after exercise, and the third was performed four hours post-workout. They found that the rate of glycogen re-synthesis was 45% slower in the group that waited two hours to replenish their carbohydrate stores. If you lead an active lifestyle on a daily basis, immediate carbohydrate consumption after exercise can enhance performance.

In general, most endurance athletes should eat a diet that is composed of 55 to 65 percent carbohydrates. Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, fruits, energy bars and vegetables are excellent choices for your post workout meal. Potassium rich foods such as bananas and oranges will help replace lost electrolytes. This is important, because low electrolytes have been linked to muscle cramping. Consuming protein along with carbohydrates can stimulate glycogen replacement. Active individuals should consume 10 to 15 percent of their calories from protein, or 0.5 – 0.8 grams protein per pound body weigh It will also help repair damaged muscle tissue. If you are staying away from animal products, you can get protein from beans, legumes and soy products. In addition to carbohydrates and protein, be sure to consume plenty of fluids in the form of either water or fruit juice.

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