How you fuel before and how you recover after a workout affects your energy while working out, and can determine whether you feel sore the next day, and even impact your future performance. As a frequent runner (I've been more into interval running as of late), paying attention to my diet around my training times has been extremely helpful in helping me get closer to my goals, which is why I decided to break down the best foods to eat before or after a run. Also, in this article, I'll give you the run-down on whether when you should eat when exercising, and the five things to eat before or after running.

So should I eat before or after running? Distance and intensity are key factors to take into consideration when deciding this. If you do low-impact training such as a short jog or a steady run of less than an hour, it's okay to train on an empty stomach or with relatively little fuel. And by fuel I mean food – primarily carbs.

If, however, you are running long distances or doing explosive interval training, it's best to charge your fuel stores beforehand. When you complete a strenuous endurance workout, ideally, you would want to get a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein, which "will maximize immune function while restoring energy and rebuilding your muscles better than before."

When you run a marathon or have long training sessions, you need energy in the form of carbs to fuel your workout. By carbs, I mean unrefined quality carbohydrate sources , such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The good news is that whole food plant-based sources of carbs are also loaded with protein and healthy fats. An all-around win. 

When preparing for an intense run, make sure to eat 2-4 hours for a big meal and 30 minutes-2 hours for a small snack before heading out, in order for the food gets a chance to digest. 

So without further ado, here are the five things to eat before or after running: 

1. Whole Grain Toast With Nut/Seed Butter and Banana

Laura Rodriguez

This is an excellent snack choice for pre or post workout. The whole grain in the toast (even better if you can get your hands on sprouted grain bread) is a great source of carbs and fiber that will power up and replenish your muscles. Adding nut butter is a delicious and healthy way to get some extra protein and good fats in. 

As for bananas, they are an excellent source of carbohydrates, which are our primary source of energy. Avid runners have an increased need for vitamin B6, not to mention that during intense runs you lose electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, all of which are naturally found in bananas. Reason #876 you need bananas in your life (I lowkey can't go a day without them). 

Vitamin B6 supports energy metabolism, improves muscle activity during running, and keeps a healthy immune system. Potassium is important for preventing muscle cramps and keeps you hydrated, in addition to helping regulate your nervous system and keep you responsive.

Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body, with half its content found in our bones. Runners put extra strain on bones, so eating a magnesium-rich banana before or after a run can help maintain healthy and strong bones. Not only that, but it also aids muscle and nerve function, immune support, energy metabolism and protein synthesis. It doesn't really get much better than that. Eat your bananas, kids. 

Sprinkle some cinnamon for added sweetness and hemp seeds for extra omega-3s and protein. 

2. Smoothie/Protein Shake 

Laura Rodriguez

This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to recover after a workout. The important part of this recovery drink is making sure that there are enough carbs in that protein shake, which is why I love having mine with berries, bananas, pineapple, spinach, and just a whole lotta other plant foods, to optimize the re-fuel of the glycogen stores. Adding healthy fats like chia, flax, or hemp seeds, or nut/seed butter boosts nutrient absorption and bioavailability while adding extra protein.

Protein seems to be over-hyped these days, and it's hard not to be confused about which one to consume with the daunting and innumerable barrels of protein powders at health stores, promising multiple muscle development and performance enhancing benefits. 

According to Dr. Rob Danoff, an Aria Health System physician with a focus on sports medicine and nutrition, when consumed in large quantities, your body can suffer from protein-overload. The burden of excess protein that your muscles can't even absorb on your kidneys can have serious health repercussions, and contributes to acidity in the blood, which can lead to calcium being leeched from the bones – a one-way trip to osteoporosis. So remember, when it comes to protein, more isn't necessarily better. Eat enough calories and you'll get enough protein. 

I'll proceed to recommend some of the best protein powders I've tried:

Vegan protein powders such as Sunwarrior Protein, Vega Protein, and Birdman Falcon Protein are my top choices. The last one I mentioned is actually my fave, because not only is it from a 100% Mexican company, but it also has all-natural ingredients and sources its protein from pure plant products such as quinoa, peas, rice, and pumpkin seeds. Not to mention it comes with enzymes and probiotics. It's also smooth AF – no chunks or chalky aftertaste. Major win.

I always recommend vegan proteins even to non-vegans because they are less inflammatory, easier on the stomach, and overall healthier. Whey protein can be difficult to digest because of the lactose – yes, isolate too – and most companies load them with artificial sweeteners such as acesulfame, potassium, and sucralose. These can really detract from your fitness goals. And not only that, but whey is heavily processed which degrades the quality of the nutrition in the protein powder, in addition to containing arsenic, and heavy metals such as cadmium and lead. Yikes. 

As for the amino-acids debate and the whole plant protein not being a "complete" protein thing, studies have shown that brown rice protein is just as nutritionally complete and includes all the essential amino acids, including the ever-famous leucine (if you want to read about how cutting your leucine intake can extend your life-span, read this). Stick with plant-based protein powders if you want better digestibility, assimilation, safety, and nutrient density. 

3. Oatmeal

Laura Rodriguez

Talk about favorite breakfast food EVER. I love days when I get home from my workout and make myself a bowl of oatmeal, filled with filling fiber, protein, and cinnamon-y deliciousness. Oatmeal consumed a few hours before a run can provide lasting energy to power through the toughest runs, but it's also an excellent post-workout choice due to its high fiber, protein, and carb content. It's great for really replenishing those glycogen stores and enhancing recovery. 

The high fiber content makes this a low-glycemic meal, meaning the glucose is released slowly, which means no blood-sugar spike and sustained energy. Elite ultra-marathoner Michael Wardian and Guinness World Record holder for fastest marathon run swears by it. 

When it comes to the five things to eat before or after running, this one has to be my top-pick. 

My favorite recipe for oatmeal is the following:


2/3 cups of rolled oats

1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds

1 tbsp of chia seeds

1 1/3 cups of water

1 1/2 chopped medjool dates (or 3 deglet dates)

A splash of almond milk (or plant-based milk of choice)

A dash of cinnamon

A dash of sea salt

Nut butter of choice (homemade is best)

1 banana (1/2 mashed and 1/2 sliced)

Berries (optional)


1. Add oats, water, flax, chia, dates, cinnamon, sea salt, cinnamon, and 1/2 of a mashed banana (this will make your oats taste like banana bread *drools*) in a pot on the stove

2. Stir constantly for about 5-7 minutes until the oats start to thicken and the water starts absorbing

3. When the oats start to get a little dry, add a splash (+/- depending on desired thickness) of your favorite plant milk to give the oats a creamier consistency 

4. After you turn off the stove, let it sit a minute or so for the chia and flax to thicken the oats (trust me, it'll be worth the wait) 

5. Serve the oats and garnish with banana slices, berries, fruit of choice, nut butter, and a square of dark chocolate (optional but strongly recommended – nothing beats melty chocolate reeses-style peanut butter oats that literally taste like dessert)

4. Fruit Salad

Laura Rodriguez

No better way to re-charge your carb stores than with a huge plate of fresh fruit. Talk about eating the rainbow (and noooo I don't mean Skittles). Delicious and satisfying. In addition to being an excellent source of complex carbohydrates for recovering after an intense run, they also offer a great deal of hydration. Fruits have around 85-96% of water content, which is essential for replenishing water lost during your training sesh. So, now you know that you can also eat your water (plus get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals). Very convenient if you ask me. *currently about to raid my fridge to have that last piece of juicy watermelon* 

Now I want to talk about one of the fruit controversies out there: bananas. "But they'll make me fat!" No, they won't. Any fruit in and of itself can't make you fat. Why? Because of the fiber! This acts like a sponge and releases the sugars steadily, preventing the blood sugar spikes that cause your pancreas to go into overdrive producing insulin, which stimulates fat storage. 

If you turn your fruits into fruit juice, that's a whole other story because you have stripped them of their protective fiber. Stick to whole fruits. Of course, over-eating anything is never a good idea, as it could easily lead to a calorie surplus, which leads to excess energy storage, a.k.a. weight gain. 

Fruit also comes packaged with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and refreshing goodness, so don't forgo these amazing and healing foods out of fear that they'll pile on the pounds; they won't. Go ahead and have yourself a big bowl of your favorite fruits for the yummiest hydration and nutrient boost post-run. 

5. Energy Bars/Healthy Treats

Laura Rodriguez

Sometimes we don't have time to go home and make ourselves a pre or post run fix. This is where energy bars and healthy snacks come in handy. There are a lot of protein bars that claim to be good for you but have sneaky unhealthy ingredients. If you're wondering which are some of the best energy bars, find a list of some of the best here. This is one of the quicker ones of the five things to eat before or after running.

Shown on the pic above is one of my favorite pick-me-up snacks: cacao date energy balls. I made these with dates, almonds, cacao powder, and puffed amaranth. They literally taste like brownie bites – but healthy ones! Here's a quick and healthy recipe to make this snack that is easy to carry for some on-the-go energy. 

Pictured above is Rich Roll, a vegan ultra-athlete and long-distance runner. He managed to overcome alcoholism, depression, and unhealthy lifestyle habits with the help of adopting a plant-based diet and a rigorous exercise regime.

When talking about his diet, he says that "Eating plant-based reduces inflammatory responses which allows the body to rehabilitate itself more quickly, meaning you can bounce back more quickly, which in terms means you can train harder and you're less likely to get overtired, over-train or injured," in his interview with The Huffington Post Australia. 

His go-to fueling sources are sweet potatoes, dates, and bananas. These are great options of foods rich in complex carbs (our body's preferred source of energy), which provide steady fuel for training long and hard. 

Now that you know the five things to eat before or after running, it's time to get out there and start moving. Just make sure to fix yourself a nice pre/post workout snack to keep your goals – and taste-buds– in check.