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12 Of The Best Recovery Foods for Runners

Wondering what to eat for recovery after a long run? This post will detail the best recovery foods for runners for muscle recovery and growth, and what you should eat after a long run to optimize your recovery!

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I have less than ONE WEEK until my marathon (Savannah Rock ‘n Roll Marathon), so I thought it was a great time to talk about the best recovery foods for runners as well as some marathon training nutrition.

girl running on trail with man in background

Even before a race, I like to think about running recovery foods so I’m prepared to optimize my nutrition after the run.

This post will break down some of the best recovery foods, how to incorporate them, and how much.

What is Running Recovery Food?

Running recovery foods refer to foods that help replenish glycogen (stored carbohydrates) in your muscles and rebuild muscle protein.

There are plenty of certain foods (listed below) that can be considered some of the best running recovery foods. However, there’s not just one that checks all of the boxes. 

This is why variety in the diet is important, and having a basic understanding of sports nutrition, to aid in making healthful, recovery choices. 

And recovery nutrition for runners entails proper planning around your runs. After your run, you want to focus on protein and carbohydrates.

soft boiled egg on toast with avocado

I also think off season nutrition gets overlooked and plays a role in how your body will adapt to in-season nutrition. In other words, your diet always matters, and it’s about consistency over time, rather than how you ate in one day.

What Are The Best Recovery Foods for Runners?

Nutrition plays a crucial role in exercise recovery, specifically, in recovery from a marathon

Here are some of my favorite recovery foods for runners and some insight into why they are optimal for muscle strength and reducing inflammation. 

For those reasons, these foods should be included in your marathon nutrition plan and marathon recovery plan.

Bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries, peanut butter, tart cherries and bananas.

Let’s list them and then detail each of them!

  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Oatmeal
  • Mango
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Whole Grains
  • Turmeric
  • Yogurt/ Cottage Cheese
  • Chocolate Milk/ Smoothies
  • Tart Cherry Juice
  • Water

Best Foods for Runners Recovery

These are some of the recovery foods you should plan on including after a long run.

Many of these carbs for runners are on the list for foods to eat before and after runs for their awesome nutrition properties.


I add frozen wild blueberries to every single smoothie and oatmeal bowl I make. Better yet, add them to baked oatmeal, like this sweetpotato oatmeal bake with blueberries.

Blueberries are a great post run food because they are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which can improve our defense systems in the body. Some research shows cardiovascular benefits and they can reduce muscle damage, too.

baked sweet potato oatmeal on white plate with blueberries and maple syrup


Is there a one best recovery food after running? No, but bananas offer up some good things!

The key electrolytes for running we lose through sweat are sodium and potassium, and to a smaller extent, magnesium. Yes, even though we lose it in small amounts, magnesium for runners is still important!

Bananas are a great natural source of potassium and can be great for reducing cramping.

Also, bananas are high in carbohydrates that our muscles can take up rapidly, after being depleted due to a long workout or run.

My favorite way to use them is frozen in smoothies, almond flour banana muffins, topped over cereal, yogurt, banana strawberry smoothie bowl or banana baked oatmeal.

Oatmeal topped with berries, yogurt, peanut butter in white bowl


The number one question I get about post run meals is, “what to eat after a long run.” I almost always want to say oatmeal!

Most people think of oatmeal as a pre-race food, but did you know it can be a post race food, too? Especially if you fill it with the right things! 

Oatmeal for runners is one of the best carbohydrate-rich canvas’ that you can top with your favorite toppings!

Cherry overnight oats in jar with blueberries, cherries and yogurt on top

I love these one-step oat bowls from Daily Harvest with fun, nourishing ingredients that I may not always keep on hand in bulk (use code BUCKETLIST for $40 off your first order!).

Otherwise, I tend to add many of the same ingredients I’ve talked about here – blueberries, yogurt or milk, peanut butter, chia seeds, pumpkin and seeds. 

To save time for when you want to eat after a long run, make these cherry overnight oats.


Guess why mangos are among some of the best recovery foods for runners? They have double the amount of Vitamin C as an orange! 

You could also go for apricots, oranges, red bell peppers, or broccoli. Dried mango is sometimes a little easier and stays fresher longer!

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps counteract the oxidative stress we put on our body during extreme exercise. It can help aid in decreasing soreness and inflammation. Vitamin C for runners is also important because it helps the body use and absorb collagen.

This mango lime quinoa salad is a great source of complex carbohydrates and a fun way to add in Vitamin C. 

Summer quinoa salad as a side dish | Bucket List Tummy


Sweetpotatoes are my definition of running recovery food. They are full of complex carbs to help replenish those glycogen stores.

They also have ample beta carotene, an antioxidant and a precursor for Vitamin A. They also have Vitamin C, iron and potassium.

I love them in my sweetpotato nachos, sweetpotato bread, no bake ginger energy bites and in sweet potato turkey burgers.

Sweet potato turkey burgers with toppings


Omelets are a great way to refuel with everything. Eggs are so nutritious and provide necessary protein (and the amino acid, leucine for muscle growth).

Amino acids are needed for your muscles after the long exercise where they are being broken down to help replenish and rebuild them. 

Depending on what you add to the omelet, you can also be doing yourself an even bigger favor. For instance, red bell peppers and broccoli are both high in Vitamin C to help with iron absorption.

I also like a good skillet breakfast scramble, asparagus mushroom quiche or even a chorizo breakfast casserole

cast iron skillet with eggs, beef and cauliflower

Whole Grains

Whole grains are great muscle recovery foods after running. Think oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly, quinoa, brown rice, etc. Whole grains are full of B vitamins, which help our bodies convert glucose into energy, and also magnesium.

Magnesium is a nutrient that’s typically low in the American diet and helps regulate blood pressure and is great for bone health.

For quick snacks (that you don’t have to make or prep), I highly recommend Thrive Market – they have so many great snack bars!

Almond flour banana muffins in muffin tin


I know I write about this protein powder all the timebut I really love it. It’s also great because it has tart cherry juice and turmeric in it, which are great for recovery and decreasing inflammation!

Vega Sport Performance Protein powder tub

Curcumin, the main component in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and may help decrease pain and swelling.

A great way to use turmeric naturally is on these roasted garlic turmeric parsnip fries or with golden turmeric oatmeal, since we know oatmeal is also a great runners recovery food!

These turmeric salmon patties are great too!

The omega fats from the salmon will also help with inflammation. Turmeric and salmon are good foods to eat after running to reduce inflammation.

zucchini and canned salmon burger on an open faced bun
thrive market

Yogurt or Cottage Cheese

Both yogurt and cottage cheese provide a great combo of protein and carbohydrates, which you want after exercise. Yogurt also has beneficial bacteria that improve our gut health.

Siggi's, Post run foods, Best foods for recovery

Plus, it’s a great, thick vehicle for fruit (think about all those antioxidants) or in a greek yogurt smoothie!

Cottage cheese is also high in casein, a slow-releasing protein, making it a great option for a pre-bedtime snack. Since it’s slow-releasing, it can help reduce muscle breakdown while you sleep (aka fast).

I love to enjoy these high-protein cottage cheese overnight oats after a long run. Cottage cheese can also be salty to replenish those electrolytes!

Both yogurt and cottage cheese are also great sources of leucine, mentioned above. 

overnight oats in mason jar with apple pie seasoning on countertop with sliced apples in background

Chocolate Milk + Smoothies

My favorite smoothie is this chocolate blueberry smoothie, FULL of antioxidant potential. 

Or, if you want extra Vitamin C, also consider a orange and mango smoothie, with 30 grams of protein and a fun citrus flavor. 

orange and mango smoothie with orange slices

We’ve all heard about chocolate milk as one of the best recovery foods for runners. These are staples in our house.

The reason it’s so great is that it has nearly the perfect 3:1-4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, ideal for rebuilding and replenishing muscles after a long or intense workout.

But, rather than buying one that would likely have more sugar, you could make your own at home. Plus, the calcium (and Vitamin D) are great for your bones.

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice for runners is very beneficial!

There is a whole slew of research right now about tart cherry juice and it’s endurance benefits. I’ve already bought some tart cherry juice to have after my marathon next weekend.

One study in marathoners showed that those who took tart cherry juice after the race had improved muscle markers than those with the placebo.

Tart cherry juice helps with muscle recovery and reducing inflammation and increases our body’s total antioxidant capacity. Studies have also shown that CRP (C-reactive protein) levels, a marker of inflammation, were lower in those taking tart cherry juice.

The recommendation is 10 fluid ounces of tart cherry juice within 30 minutes of a workout.

Bonus: tart cherry juice is also included in this protein powder.

You can also make your own tart cherry electrolyte gummies!

Montmorency tart cherries help with inflammation and help improve recovery after endurance exercise.

I love using montmorency cherries in my oatmeal and yogurt, or adding them to pancakes, granola, trail mix and more. Adding them to these trail mix bars is so easy!

I also love adding fresh cherries to cherry chia pudding, plus they go great with chocolate!

Cherry Cocoa Chia Pudding


Don’t underestimate the recovery power and nutritional benefits of water!

Water, aside from helping us stay hydrated, is vital for ensuring our cells receive the nutrients we take in.

Without adequate water, our cells and muscles won’t function efficiently. Water also aids in digestion and bowel function.

Consider foods with a high water content, like watermelons and cucumbers. Remember, by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

I love these homemade electrolyte drinks to help me stay hydrated, or relying on Ucan powder or NUUN tabs to mix in with water.

homemade watermelon electrolyte drink with lemon and salt
Making your own electrolyte drink is a great way to avoid dehydration and handle gut issues.

More Sports Nutrition Resources

What are some of your favorite recovery foods or liquids?

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  1. I’ve been reading a lot about blueberries being so good for recovery too! I did not know this. I do like bananas and try to have one as a post race snack oh that and Chocolate Milk is my favorite after a race!!!

  2. Great list!

    I love chocolate milk, peanut butter, and yes, beer LOL!. Usually, after a long run or race, I end up craving some kind of red meat as well.