Post workout meals are best served with a good balance of protein and complex carbohydrates. Many endurance athletes neglect to take in enough protein in their diet, particularly after a workout or a race when muscles need them most. the general guideline is to consume 1g or protein per pound of body weight.
During hard workouts and racing your body will break down muscle. Protein provides the building blocks allowing them to rebuild and make adaptations from the hard work put in, which is where your gains are made. Good complex carbs help replace all the glycogen your muscles used up during the workout in a slow release manner, helping to avoid a spike in energy. Although not as important, a small amount of unsaturated fats will be beneficial as well.
Running, in this respect is similar to any other sport, be it football, weightlifting, cycling, or any other sport where physical energy is required. However, in sports like weightlifting the benefit of protein is far more obvious and well known. Unlike weightlifting, however, a pre-workout dose of protein is less crucial to performance. Endurance runners in particular will take the most benefit from a protein blast their post-workout meal as this will promote muscle recovery and adaptation. Whereas a pre-workout meal with a boost of complex carbs will give the endurance athlete more benefit than will protein.
Meal preparation can be hugely beneficial in this regard, particularly after your long run when the thought of standing in the kitchen and cooking a balanced meal will be nauseating, never mind painful. Putting together a great post run meal before heading out the door can be quick and easy and just what you need.
Many endurance runners will find protein infused chocolate milk to be a great quick recovery drink immediately following a session, or their own homemade version of the same with whey protein powder added to 500ml of milk. One relatively inexpensive meal that I like to prepare and have portioned out is the Sweet Chilli Turkey Bowl. It’s simple and it’s packed with all the nutrition you need after a good solid session.