Post-Run Fuel: Focus on Protein with Pancakes!

My kitchen counter. (yeah, it’s really not.) Image via accessexcellence.org

I’m no nutritonist, but by now, my secret is out: I am a foodie. I come by it honestly from both sides of my family. My grandma Jean could talk about food all day long. And as any Italian knows, get-togethers and holidays are very food-centric. I don’t just love food though. I also love science. I love learning about food as fuel for our bodies. I love experimenting, myself as the subject (n=1), with different nutritional approaches. So what do you get when you blend a science nerd with a food geek? A person with constantly evolving nutritional philosophy, an easily convinced diet-phase companion and a lot of interesting experiences.

As a teenager, I first experimented dietary choices such as vegetarianism. Later, I tried product-centered diets (like Special K and Slimfast). All to answer the question: how will this make me feel? Well, I quickly learned that without meat, I easily get run-down/overtrained and without adequate calories (many product-centered diets are very calorically restrictive) I drop weight quickly and become very cranky.  All very useful information in building my nutritional philosophy.

Vegetarianism was not for me! Picture from www.icanhascheezburger.com.

Fast forward a few years and my latest discoveries are that milk does not do my body good and protein is my recovery’s best friend. Since a nasty winter bout of plantar fasciitis left me with less miles and less appetite, I wanted to make sure that the food I consumed was nutritious in content. It seems counterintuitive even as I write it now, but when I ran 80+ miles per week, I often let some of the nutritionally defunct snack and post-run choices slide.  I felt like I’d get in the nutritious food during my meals. So, thank you, plantar fasciitis, for making me more nutritionally aware.

Sports nutrition science agrees that protein is important for recovery post-workout. But we have all been hit over the head so many times with carbs, carbs, CARBS we often forget about protein.  Kara Goucher sums up the effects of protein very well in a 2009 article with Running Times.

“My body doesn’t feel as beat up. I really notice it the day after a training session. I still feel tired, but I don’t have that huge tightness in my body anymore.”

Here are a few of the recommendation from the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

1. Post-exercise (within 30 minutes) consumption of carbohydrate with protein at a ratio of 3:1 to 4:1 (carbs: protein) may improve muscle recovery.

2. Post-exercise (immediately to 3 hours post) protein can “stimulate robust increases in muscle protein synthesis.” AKA, recovery.

*The position statement also addresses protein intake during endurance exercise, a dietary change I have not experimented with. See! Always learning!

Now, my husband and I laugh at the Myoplex commerical with Brady Quinn, but he makes the point pretty well. Recovery is about timing and protein.

Salty readers, after all this information and years of carbo-loading, are you feeling a bit unsure of how to get the protein you need?  Have no fear, Rosemary is here. From time to time, starting today I’ll be bringing you a series of delicious, easy, post-run recipes to make sure your muscles recover and help you run your best!

The first recipe is for Protein Pancakes. From mixing bowl to stomach in under 20-minutes. Giving you 10 minutes of post-run stretching, hydrating or icing before getting into the kitchen!

1/2 scoop protein powder (I recommend Lifetime Life’s Basic in Unsweetened Vanilla)
1/4 cup pumpkin
1/2 TBSP cinnamon
1 TBSP flaxseed (optional)
1 egg
2 TBSP milk or non-dairy milk
1/4 cup blueberries
2 TBSP maple syrup

Place a skillet on medium heat with Pam or a bit of oil. Mix ingredients from protein powder to milk until combined. Using a 1/4 or 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop batter onto hot skillet. It makes about 4 pancakes using the 1/4 or 1/3 size cup. Top each pancake with a few blueberries. Let pancakes cook for 2 to 3 minutes, flip pancakes and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Top with maple syrup and enjoy!

Protein pancakes. Golden brown and full of tasty recovery goodness.

Nutritional info: 316 calories, 43 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fat, 20 grams protein.

Add a banana (and, ahem, coffee) and you’ve reached a beautiful carb to protein ratio of 3.14 to 1. The syrup and fruit are great for the 30-minute post-run window because they are easily digested and absorbed into the bloodstrem.

I love these pancakes after a weekend long run. You know, when it is after breakfast but before lunch. Whip up these pancakes in less than 10 minutes (and eat them within 30 minutes) and get in a bit more protein at lunch for maximum recovery.

Do have trouble getting in protein after a run? What other recipes do you have for post-run snacks with a good carb:protein ratio? What other recipes would you like to see?

I'm a pediatric physical therapist by day. Running mostly early am miles as I balance life as the mom of a toddler. With PR days in the past, my primary running goal is to be a lifelong runner. With 20+ years behind me, I still love the sport and I am truly grateful for every day I get to run.

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20 comments

  1. After a longer run (14+ miles), I try to have chocolate milk on hand very soon after I finish. I usually follow that with some scrambled eggs with pancakes or waffles.

    1. Hi Cinnamon! I’m glad you asked! You can make a flax egg by combining 1 TBSP of ground flax seed with 2 TBSP boiling water. Just stir and let it sit a minute before using it just like an egg! The protein content will be down a bit but otherwise, they’ll be the same! I use flax eggs a lot. Especially when I don’t have eggs on hand. Are you a vegan?

      1. I’ve never heard of a flax egg before!! That sounds amazing! I’m doing a vegan diet right now and would like a good substitute for eggs so I can bake again.

      2. We-elll…not exactly. I’m not strict about it or anything, but I’m steadily trying to cut back on my animal products. I’m actually (and I know this is weird) doing a semi-fruitarian thing right now, but mostly only because it’s too hot in the City to eat anything but fruit! I had half a watermelon for lunch and a bowl of cherries for dinner, and I couldn’t possibly feel more satisfied.

  2. These sound delicious! I remember that as a kid, my mom would freeze any leftover pancakes and we’d pop them in the toaster for later breakfasts. Do you think that would work here so you could make them ahead?

    1. My mom used to do that too! I LOOOOOOOOVED pancakes as a kid (still do, who am I kidding?)

      I would just worry about the blueberries on these in the toaster. Since there really close to the surface and not mixed in I’d worry they’d burn or gunk up the toaster, but I’ve never actually had them. So wait for Rosemary before dismissing the idea 🙂

    2. Definitely! Such a great idea! You can mix the blueberries in OR since they are just dabbed on top in the picture, put them in a toaster oven on a tray or with blueberry side up.

  3. That Lifetime Protein powder looks like a real find, Rosemary. Balanced amino acids, omegas, and chia seed powder. I’ve been wondering how on earth to get chia into my diet because I’ve heard so many good things about it. I am going to have to try this and will definitely look forward to more recipes.