The Best Recovery Foods for Runners

  Oct 31, 2016  |  #Marathon Training

I have less than ONE WEEK until my marathon, so I thought it was a great time to talk about the best recovery foods for runners and marathon nutrition.

Being my first marathon, I am totally devoting all of my attention to this race. I’m taking Friday off from work, so I can head to Savannah Thursday night after seeing clients. I want to have Friday to just relax, stretch well, and rest up and lay low.

I tend to do my best thinking on long runs. A few weeks ago during a long run, I was brainstorming about my post run meal and snack. I was thinking about what ingredients to add to my smoothie bowl, and what would be best for my body and muscle recovery.

Then, I thought it would be a great post idea to share them with you!

The Best Recovery Foods for Runners

Nutrition plays a crucial role in recovery from exercise. So, here are some of my favorite recovery foods for runners and some insight into why they are great for recovery.

These foods would be pertinent to include in your marathon nutrition plan, or your marathon recovery plan.

Running, Best recovery foods for endurance exercise


I add frozen wild blueberries to every single smoothie and oatmeal bowl I make. Better yet, add them to baked oatmeal!

Blueberries 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.


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


The main electrolytes we lose through endurance exercise are sodium and potassium. 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, muffins, topped over cereal, yogurt, smoothie bowls or oatmeal.


Summer quinoa salad as a side dish | Bucket List Tummy

Guess why? They have double the amount of Vitamin C as an orange!  You could also go for apricots, oranges, red bell peppers, or broccoli. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps counteract the oxidative stress we put on our body during extreme exercise.

It can help aid with decreasing soreness and inflammation. Dried mango is sometimes a little easier and stays fresher longer!

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

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes have 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 sweet potato nachos, sweet potato bread, sweet potato ginger energy bites and in turkey burgers.

Sweet potato turkey burgers with toppings


Omelets are a great way to refuel with everything. The eggs are providing necessary protein (and the amino acid, leucine). Amino acids are needed for your muscles after the long exercise where they are being broken down to help replenish and rebuild them. 

Also, 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.

I also like a good skillet breakfast scramble, quiche or even egg pizza.

Whole Grains

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.

I love these banana oatmeal muffins and no bake peanut butter and cherry trail mix bites!

These gluten-free Almond Flour Banana Muffins are the perfect portable snack before or after a workout and easy to meal prep. Almond meal banana muffins are gluten-free and ready in 30 minutes.


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!

Another favorite protein powder I often recommend to clients is Gainful because it can be personalized to you and your goals. 

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!

Vega Sport Performance Protein as a recovery food

These turmeric salmon patties are great too! The omega fat from the salmon will also help with inflammation.

zucchini and canned salmon burger on an open faced bun

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 (probiotics) that improve our gut health.

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

Cottage cheese is also really high in casein, which is 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). 

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

If you want extra Vitamin C, also consider a tropical creamsicle orange smoothie, with 30 grams of protein and a fun citrus flavor. 

Chocolate Milk

We’ve all heard about chocolate milk as a great recovery vehicle. These are staples in our house.

The reason it’s so great is because 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 which would likely have more sugar, make your own at home. Plus, the calcium (and Vitamin D) are great for your bones.

Tart Cherry Juice

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 the 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.

Bonus: tart cherry juice is also included in this protein powder. I actually love using montmorency cherries in my oatmeal and yogurt, or adding them to pancakes!

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

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

If you can’t find tart cherry juice, cherries themselves are still great for inflammation!

I love adding cherries to 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, Also, consider foods with a high water content, like watermelons and cucumbers.

Remember, by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

Recovery Foods for Exercise with text overlay | Bucket List Tummy

Want to learn more about Sports Nutrition?

What are some of your favorite recovery foods or liquids?


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Grab your FREE list of the most nutritious post-run foods to refuel your body and muscles. No spam here, promise.

47 responses to “The Best Recovery Foods for Runners

  1. Great list! I’m a big fan of berries too and post workout smoothies or omelets. That’s so exciting that you’re one week out from your first marathon!! I’m running NYC next weekend and getting excited!

  2. I remember seeing those sweet potato nachos on your blog before and I have been wanting to try them. I love having omelets after a long run in the morning. But if I do a longer one later in the day, I get out of breakfast mood….haha. I know I’m weird.

  3. Wow I did not know that about mangos! More reason to eat them – one of my favorite fruits. I’ve heard a lot about magnesium and its functions in stress relief with muscles. I also know dark chocolate is high in magnesium… πŸ™‚

  4. Ooh wow, you have a bevy of some of my very favorite foods here! MUCH much love, and I’m so thankful that these foods are lending to recovery after exercise. πŸ™‚

    And I can’t wait for your marathon. It’s been really wonderful following along.

  5. Love a lot of these same foods for post-workout too! Bananas and sweet potatoes are my go-to for fruit/veggies. I love yogurt or cottage cheese for some protein, and if I’m making a smoothie Vega is my favorite brand for a protein boost and a serving of veggies!

  6. I’m going to try your sweet potato nachos. They look delicious! I like eggs with cheese after a long run along with a sweet English muffin or bagel. Many of the foods you mention I also eat in the days leading up to a long race. Good luck at your first marathon! That is so exciting!! Thanks for linking, Sarah!

  7. I eat all of these foods on the regular as they’re delicious – but hooray for extra benefits!

    One of my favourite post workout recovery foods is dates! I find they’re the perfect thing to eat straight after a workout before I can make proper food as they give me a little bit of an energy hit!

  8. Eee so excited for your marathon!! You’re going to do great! Such an amazing feat.
    This post is a great resource for any athlete. Definitely saving it for my future self and future clients!

  9. I feel like I’ve been hearing so much about the health benefits of tumeric lately! Does it have a strong taste? For some reason, I’ve always assumed it does but I’ve been seeing it pop up in all kinds of recipes!

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