Tips from an elite runner: best recovery snacks

The right choice can boost energy levels and control hunger

Rachel Hannah earned a bronze medal in the women’s marathon from the 2015 Pan Am Games and she’s a registered dietitian at Medcan.

While many athletes have their go-to favourite foods to enjoy after a workout, there are certain snacks that are better than others. My last post covered the nutritional science behind recovery foods.

When you exercise, you increase the rate of protein turnover or breakdown in your body. Protein is an essential nutrient, important for building and maintaining muscle. If you exercise regularly and intensely, your protein requirements are higher than average. Ensure adequate protein is consumed in your diet in order to get back to a positive balance and maximize muscle growth and recovery. The timing of protein intake is particularly important if there is less than 8 hours in between sessions. 

Since everyone’s tastes and food preferences are different, here are 12 post-workout snacks and small meals that I recommend to my clients:

  • Whey-based protein drink/liquid meal replacement
  • High protein sports bar
  • Peanut butter or almond butter sandwich
  • Yogurt with fruit and nuts
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Milk with whole grain cereal
  • Hummus and baby carrots with a piece of fruit
  • Boiled egg with whole grain crackers and hummus
  • Reduced fat cheese with fruit or whole grain crackers
  • Lean beef, chicken, turkey or fish on a whole grain wrap with vegetables
  • Regular milk or soy milk
  • Smoothie made with milk

My personal favourite recovery foods include bananas, clementines, apples, strawberries, chocolate soy milk, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. The fruits give me the quality carbohydrates needed for energy and the soy milk, yogurt and cottage cheese help me recover properly by providing adequate protein. And most importantly, I enjoy these foods, they are nice and convenient.

In January, Rachel was the top Canadian finisher at the Chevron Houston Marathon, where she finished sixth with a personal best time of 2:32:09.

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