The first 30 minutes after a workout are considered the “magic window” and are crucial for proper recovery. Maximize these 30 minutes by following these three tips to help prevent injury, recover, and perform better for your next run.
1. Stretch and Roll
The very first thing you want to do immediately post-run is to stretch while your muscles are still warm. When the muscle cools, which takes about 30-40 minutes, it contracts and if you try to loosen it you can cause injury. Try to get at least five minutes of stretching in followed by five minutes of foam rolling. I’ve found that 10 minutes total is realistic for most beginning runners, or like me, if you’re usually bombarded and tackled by screaming and giggling children as soon as you get home from a run. If you’re doing longer runs or training for an event, I recommend stretching for even longer. I’ll be writing a future post about which specific stretches I recommend after each run.
2. Refuel with Proper Nutrition
Runners have a 30-minute window post-workout for replenishing glycogen stores depleted by running. When you run, you also create tiny tears in your muscles (totally normal-don’t panic). Your metabolic rate remains elevated for about 30 minutes afterwards, which helps speed up muscle repair. After that, your muscles will be much slower to recover. This is why we call the 30 minutes after a run the “magic window” and why it is so important to get proper nutrition in your body during this time.
Basically, the quicker you get food into your system after a workout, the faster your muscles will recover.
It’s not just important when you eat, but what you eat. You want to refuel with proper nutrition that will aid in muscle recovery. I usually aim for 300-400 calories with a ratio of 3:1 carbs to protein. A little protein is important to help repair muscles, but too much can interfere with your body reabsorbing carbs. The best time to up your protein intake is actually within 2 to 3 hours.
Here are some of my go-to recovery snacks and meals:
Within 30 minutes:
- A bagel and peanut butter
- Banana/Berries with granola and greek yogurt
- Whole grain toast with cottage cheese and avocado
- Protein Bar (my favorites are Clif Bar or G2G Protein Bar)
- Protein Drink (just make sure it doesn’t have too much added sugar- I like Premier Protein)
- 8 oz glass of chocolate milk (same thing- not too much added sugar)
Within 3 hours:
- Salad with chicken or steak
- Eggs and Avocado
- Tuna Sandwich
Although less time-sensitive than refueling and muscle repair, hydration is also an important part of proper recovery. How much water you should drink depends on factors like age, weight, and the intensity and duration of your run- however, it’s a good idea to drink at least 8 ounces of water within the first 30 minutes after your run. If you tend to sweat more than others (hello! I’m the one drenched while my friends are just glistening) than you might require even more water to replenish.
If you’ve been running for longer than an hour, running in hot weather, or tend to sweat more, it’s also a good idea to replenish your electrolytes. You can opt for sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade, but these can also contain high amounts of sugar. I enjoy using Nuun tablets and have found that these work best for me.
The benefits of maximizing this 30 minute magic window after your run extend well beyond the few hours after working out. They can help improve race times, reduce soreness and most importantly help prevent injury.
Comment below and let me know if you have any other tips for recovering after your runs!
Related Posts: 5 Easy Ways to Prevent Injury