What to eat after a winter run to reap the rewards of your effort

We all think of soup as a comforting hug on a winter’s day, but it offers so much more than just warmth to a runner

I love the feeling of returning home after a run on a cold winter evening, but the last thing I fancy doing is cooking once I get in the door.

Left to my own devices, I could simply end up eating toast, but I’ve read enough nutrition books to know that I should eat something that contains protein, carbohydrate and fluid in order to reap the benefits of the run. But it also needs to be simple, easy and practical if I’m going to stick to it.

So I’ve decided that this is the winter I’m going to make soup my go-to post-run meal.

A winter food

We all think of soup as a comforting hug on a winter’s day, but it offers so much more than just warmth to runners. It helps us repair, recover and rehydrate from a winter training session. It can be made in advance so our tired bodies just have to heat it up. It is portable, so runners can even have it in a flask ready to go if away from home. It is jam-packed with nutrition without being too heavy and there is such a variety of soups to make that we will never get bored. It can even be topped with extra ingredients for that extra punch. The only downside is, of course, having to be organised enough to make it in advance. But that too can be made easier by making a big batch and freezing.

Not hungry after a run?

Although it is recommended to have something light with protein and carbohydrate within 30 minutes of running, many of us don’t feel hungry at all after running. A heavy meal doesn’t inspire, but soup can be light as well as nourishing. A small cup can even do the trick. It is hydration and nutrition in one and it won’t feel like a lead weight in your tummy.

Days in air-conditioned offices and central heating homes dehydrate us, so to keep up our performance and concentration at work, at home and on the run, hydration is just as important now as in the summer months. As someone who finds it more difficult to keep up my water intake when the weather is cold, soup ticks that box for fluids too.

Our favourite runners’ soups

Dee Daly, resident food coach in my ForgetTheGym running community, will be spoiling our members this month with tempting ideas for simple soups. While Dee has one eye on nutrition, she also knows that time is tight and taste is important. Many of us are cooking for more than just ourselves, so any hacks to boost nutrition with less effort will be a hit for us all.

When a recipe seems daunting most of us won’t bother, but when we combine a few simple seasonal ingredients and make something special we are more likely to make it again and again. Knowing it is working on our inside to make us more resilient, energised and strong is an added bonus.

Seasonal comforts

Dee encourages us always to make the most of seasonal local produce. At this time of year we say goodbye to the tomatoes and courgettes and welcome everything from beetroot to squash, carrots to apples. All are full of minerals, vitamins and electrolytes. She gives us options of smooth blitzed soups where protein in the form of nuts and lentils can be added. For those who like more of a bite to their soup, she tempts us with bean soups and added noodles.

With a bag of fresh beetroot I picked up yesterday, I’ve got my eye on her beetroot and apple soup for the weekend. Whatever ingredients you have at home, I bet you can find a soup recipe that will make them centre stage.

Add an extra nutritional hit

Not everyone has got the time, or interest, to make soup. But even on the days when you are too busy to prioritise cooking, shop-bought soup can be made even more nourishing by adding a few extra ingredients on top.

Why not thow in some cold leftover chicken, a few nuts or seeds, a dollop of yoghurt or all of the above to make your soup extra special without much effort. If you are making soup at home, add spices, herbs, ginger and garlic to help boost immunity over the winter. A soup is not complete for some people without a wholesome chunk of bread to dip in. Keep an eye out for a nice sourdough or high-fibre bread.

Get more adventurous and creative with your toppings (both on the soup and the bread) as the season goes on and you might just surprise yourself with your experimental culinary skills.

Give it a go

We all could do with more energy, nourishment and immunity through the winter. Our post-run meals and snacks help us repair our muscles and make a good recovery. We bounce back quicker for our next training session reducing our risk of injury due to fatigue. But post-run food is more than fuel. It can be a motivation to get to the finish line and reward for training. These meals can often be social too.

While our hug in a mug in the summer is an outdoor coffee, chocolate milk or a smoothie, I crave that added extra layer of warmth and sustenance now. This winter I’m determined that soup is going to be my post-run companion. Why don’t you give it a go too?

  • Mary Jennings is founder of ForgetTheGym and coaches runners all over Ireland and beyond to enjoy running more. Her new term of winter beach classes kick off on November 6th in Dublin.

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