Tips on Proper Diet After Running

It’s very important to invest in a healthy diet after running! Adopting a post-run diet that is both protein-rich and packs a lot of anti-inflammatory power will help keep chronic inflammation from bubbling out of control, thereby reducing pain and swelling and will certainly advantage your post-running recovery outcomes. 

The core imperative to remember is when it comes to muscle repair and strengthening, protein is certainly an ideal candidate because it helps insulate muscles from dangerous inflammatory events. However, there are wide-ranging natural compounds in many healthy foods, like veggies, fruits, beans, herbal teas, that also have a strong hand in thwarting pain-triggering chronic inflammation.

While some levels of inflammation in the body is part of a natural response to help heal the body, sometimes the inflammation can linger for too long, causing more harm than good as long-lasting or chronic inflammation may increase the risk of repeated damage to otherwise normal tissues. When inflammation becomes chronic, it can lay the groundwork for ongoing pain bothersomeness and may easily set the stage for an injury to develop!

Diet after Running

To avoid performance setbacks due to constantly sore and stiff legs, it would be essential and incredibly wise for a runner to adopt a more anti inflammatory diet, full of natural anti inflammatory foods, and here they are:

Tips on Proper Diet After Running


Barely may play an important role in enriching post-run recovery by scaling back pain-triggering chronic inflammation. According to Australian researchers, consuming ½ cup of barely daily may effectively attack muscle-irritating, inflammatory toxins and waste products that can be harmful to muscle health. The researchers revealed that barley is lush in a trio of key minerals: magnesium, molybdenum and selenium, which collectively help switch on detoxification enzymes that aid in your livers capacity to work better to flush out inflammatory wastes and toxins, and from this, may help bring more post-run nutritional support.

Brussels Sprouts 

Because of their positive influence on hormonal balance sustainment, brussels sprouts are very involved in beating back pain-triggering chronic inflammation. According to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, which are natural compounds strongly implicated in potentially have a leveling effect on the overproduction of certain hormones. More specifically, the researchers discovered that brussels sprouts pumped the brakes on excessive estrogen in women — when in excess, too much estrogen may erode tissues, potentially causing tissue damage. All in all, the researchers found that both sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol effectively help break down the over-production of certain hormones before they can latch onto tissues and inflict harm. Other foods high in sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, radishes, bok choy and collard greens, and these along with brussels sprouts may help bring your post-run recovery up to speed. 


Curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, is well-known to hijack pain-triggering inflammation whereby study after study has pinpointed curcumin as a safe, natural effective anti-inflammatory agent that may serve a supporting role in post run recovery enrichment. According to data in the journal Pain Medicine, the researchers discovered curcumin contains a natural compound that reduces your body’s production of COX-2, an enzyme that triggers inflammation, swelling and pain. What we’ve learned so far is that curcumin may interfere with the over-production of COX-2, helping to fan the flame of pain triggering-inflammation.

Chickpeas, Beans, Red Skin Peanuts and Oats

Chickpeas, beans, red skin peanuts and oats provide a strong supply line of anti-inflammatory compounds whereby according to research from East Carolina University, eating 3 cups of chickpeas, beans, red skin peanuts and oats on weekly may dramatically reduce widespread bodily inflammation. Another tremendous health bonus of these foods is that they were found to reduce heart disease risk by 25%. How? Chickpeas, beans, red skin peanuts and oats are abundant in saponins which are plant compounds that are potent at minimizing pain-triggering inflammation by helping the liver effectively disarm health-harming inflammation and excrete it before the inflammation accumulates and damages the lining of the artery walls, organs and muscles!

Orange Vegetables: Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

Enjoying more carrots and sweet potatoes weekly are another deliciously optimal way to effectively help restrain chronic inflammation as sweet potatoes and carrots have the nutritional potency to help nourish the muscles, but also nourish the arteries, thereby improving the health and responsiveness of your arteries, playing to the advantage of enhanced circulation for running!

According to Harvard University researchers, chowing down on 3 cups of sweet potatoes, carrots or other orange vegetables weekly may reduce heart disease risk by 42%. How? The researchers noted that orange veggies are rich in carotenoids which are vital nutrients that strongly defend against heart-damaging inflammation underlying heart disease, and also prompts white blood cells to produce safe amounts of inflammation to help kill viruses and other germs, but not enough inflammation that damages the tissues.  What is more, the anti-inflammatory capacity of orange veggies is just as effective as Aspirin without the attachment of possible dangerous side effects!

More Good News On Carrots!

UCLA researchers found more enormous health benefits of carrots that extend way beyond nourishing the muscles. The researchers discovered that carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a nutrient responsible for carrot’s orange color, beta-carotene not only enriches recovery nutrition for running, they also strengthen your immune system. The researchers revealed that the beta-carotene in carrots may fortify and strengthen your immune system to react faster via increasing the production of inflammation-fighting white blood cells, making them act more aggressively to foreign invaders, warding off suspicious cells more effectively, thereby providing you with an added layer of immune defense during the cold and flu season!

Garlic and Onions

Enjoy more garlic and onions may help move things forward with regards to more optimal running recovery by guarding against chronic inflammation. Credit goes to the long-lasting inflammation reducing capacity of garlic and onions and this was confirmed by Canadian researchers who found that eating a 1/4 cup of onions or 1 garlic clove daily may prevent pain-triggering inflammation levels from elevating. How? Garlic and onions are heavy in unique healthy compounds that bring global inflammatory relief, particularly dropping problematic inflammation in the digestive tract, which is going to in turn, help free-up more energy via improving gastrointestinal health.  On that note, it’s worth noting that according to European researchers, a daily dose of garlic or onions may reduce stomach and colon cancer risk by 44%!

There’s even stronger evidence that makes the case that onions can really help protect and nourish your muscles and encourage healing of damaged ones. According to British researchers, eating 1/3 cup of onions per day could reduce your risk of a future muscle injury by 33%! Furthermore, eating more onions may help you heal 25% faster if you are already sore and achy. The researchers revealed that onions are abundant in sulfur and quercetin which are cartilage-strengthening nutrients that also play a prominent role in helping reduce muscle tissue swelling and achy-inflammation and also accelerates the healing of strained, damaged muscles.

Shiitakes Mushrooms

Shiitakes mushrooms are incredibly nutrient-rich and are well-known chronic inflammation fighters. It’s been reported that enjoying 3 cups of shiitakes mushrooms weekly may provide significant joint pain and inflammation relief by 38%. How? Shiitakes mushrooms main anti-inflammatory ingredient is a somewhat rare molecule called, lentinan which is proven to provide restorative nourishment to joint tissues which is key to not only halting free radial damage that is at the root of chronic inflammation, but helps repair compromised joints, helping them regain strength.


Broccoli is another real driver that helps break down pain-triggering inflammation, helping you retain muscles that are more injury resistant. Emerging reports are finding direct evidence that eating more broccoli is a sustainable way to help protect your muscles and joints from stress. According to reports detailed in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, eating more broccoli on a regular, soothes and strengthens sore, stiff joints because broccoli is deeply rich in vitamin B1 and vitamin C which collectively are incredibly targeted in preventing pain-triggering inflammation symptoms from worsening.

Furthermore, broccoli contains an ocean of other nutrients that help scrubs the cartilage and bones free of damaging inflammation, potentially reducing the risk of osteoporosis! According to Washington University researchers, broccoli is abundant in a unique health compound called MNM (nicotinamide mononucleotide) whereby the researchers discovered that MNM actively forces aging cells to behave as if they were younger, thus helping to potentially stave off age-related degenerative ailments pertaining to the muscles, joints and bones.

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root can be consumed in tea formation (dandelion root tea) or as a supplement, and when it comes to chronic inflammation and never ending muscle and joint pain, substantial pain relief gains can be made with dandelion root!

Preliminary research has indicated that dandelion root has a built-in “kill switch” that effectively seeks and destroys certain types of toxic cells whereby according to Canadian tests, the muscle-nurturing compounds in dandelion root dismantles very aggressive inflammatory processes AND forces abnormal cells to self destruct while leaving nearby healthy cells unharmed and uninterrupted in their normal cellular functioning. Health experts also reaffirm that dandelion tea has virtually no negative side effects, so you can safely enjoy 3 cups of it on a daily basis.

Green Tea

Another tea that is of strong interest for health experts is green tea. There is more hard-evidence showing that green tea really works as a pain reliever as well as an effective anti-inflammatory agent that fights pain-triggering inflammation. According to research in the journal Chinese Medicine, green tea effectively dampens pain by easing overactive painful nerves whereby the researchers found that sipping on 24 oz of green tea per day is enough to experience noticeable improvements in muscle pain and swelling. The researchers noted that the mechanism of action of how green tea works to effectively soothe muscle pain and even speed healing is that green tea is abundantly rich in catechins which are natural compounds responsible for helping quiet overactive pain nerves while also reducing inflammation AND encourages your immune system to help repair damaged tissues.

Lavender Tea

Another tea proven as a natural remedy to have a positive effect on pain relief is lavender tea. According to German researchers, lavender tea and pain relief may go hand-in-hand because the active ingredient, linalool, in lavender tea helps strike down achiness by boosting the brain’s production of calming, pain-soothing alpha waves, making lavender tea another healthy route to take to help deter painful muscles and stiff joints.

Beet Juice

Beet juice is considered the mother’s milk for delivering high-quality energy for running long distances, but beet juice can also heal sore, overworked muscles as beets are overflowing with a rare natural antioxidant called betalines which gives beets their unique color. This valuable anti-inflammatory compound has a variety of functions that work to suppress free radical damage that causes inflammation. For one, betalines in beets have a detoxifying effect, trapping toxins in their tracks via binding to fats, chemicals and toxins, shuttling them out of the body before they can be absorbed and kick-start painful inflammatory processes. Secondly, betalines helps reduce inflammation by preventing the depletion of essential minerals, putting you on a better path to recovery. Note that to optimize the detoxifying, anti-inflammatory capacity of beets, you want to eat them raw!

Coconut Oil

Consuming 1 tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil daily may help make a difference in walling off chronic inflammation from festering into muscle pain and joint stiffness. According to French researchers, coconut oil’s potent anti-inflammatory capacity comes from its phenolic compounds which are known to destroy abnormal and insidious cellular growth, and by the same token, coconut oil’s phenolic compounds may spur on and encourage healthy tissue cellular growth, helping cells divide properly, thereby making coconut oil a powerful dietary player at potentially preventing unnecessary inflammatory events from gaining too much traction!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Another healthy oil to consider that helps drain away pain-triggering chronic inflammation is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). According to Italian researchers, consuming 3 tablespoons of EVOO daily, in place of other fats, may cut your risk of aches and pains by 50% AND it may also help accelerate recovery time for if you’re currently sidelined with a muscle or soft tissue injury. The researchers revealed that the pain-improving capacity of EVOO lends credit to being rich in hydroxytyrosol which is a rare, yet powerfully potent anti-inflammatory compound known to help reining in chronic inflammatory troublemakers. 

Royal Jelly

Because it is an incredibly nutrient-rich substance, royal jelly is ultimately prevailed as a superfood that has been used in long-standing, for thousands of years, in traditional Chinese medicine. According to Robin Foroutan, an integrative dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests that royal jelly may greatly aid in repairing and even reversing cellular damage AND may help safeguard your cells against further damage, thereby having a stopping effect on the flow of painful inflammation. You can get royal jelly in liquid form or supplement form.

Fruits & Veggies

Like it or not, eating more fruits and veggies can significantly help lift pain-triggering inflammation. According to Canadian researchers, fruits and vegetables may single-handily disrupt chronic inflammatory events by virtue of the fact that most fruits and vegetables contain high levels of polyphenols, which are natural tissue healing compounds which can be damaged by heat, so in this instance, it is important to eat your fruits and vegetables uncooked to maximize their anti-inflammatory capacity. The researchers also noted that to achieve quicker pain relief and reduce the risk of a muscle related injury by 33%, aim for eating 2 cups of uncooked carrots, celery, salad greens, apples or avocados on a daily basis!

Wintergreen Essential Oil

For a topical approach, a little wintergreen essential oil can go a long way with providing effective pain-relief. According to British researchers, massaging diluted wintergreen essential oil on an achy muscle or a sore, stiff joint may counter pain and swelling by almost 30%. The researchers discovered that wintergreen essential oil is abundantly rich in methylsalicylate which stimulates blood flow to the affected, injured area, helping send deep currents of nutrient-rich and oxygenated blood flowing through your tender spots!

Final Thoughts

Because they are highly saturated with potent antioxidant and abundantly rich in key essential vitamins and minerals, the foods listed above makes it difficult for inflammation to fester into pain, stiffness and a potential injury. Incorporating these foods into your runner’s diet will be worthwhile as a smart means to enhance your running nutrition, especially if you have long struggled with muscle aches and pains, these healthy foods are a sure way to optimize muscle nourishment and can be a real game-changer at enhancing your post run nutrition efforts.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, you will LOVE my YouTube channel where I provide more in-depth, evidence-based nutritional tips for running and I also discuss the performance benefits of forefoot running and the health-harming implications of heel strike running.

Bretta Riches

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!