Should You Eat Carbs After A Nighttime Run? What To Consider

Sometimes a nighttime run burns off the stress of a tough day. Other times, you're running at night to beat the oppressive heat of the day. While you probably don't want to eat a huge meal after your run, you also don't want to miss out on some healthy carbs and protein to help your recovery. If you go to bed a little hungry, you could wake up in the middle of the night starving (via CNN).

When you work out during other times of the day, you should have a meal within 60 minutes after your workout. To optimize recovery, that meal should include 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrates for every gram of protein, according to a 2008 position statement from the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Yet you might fear eating carbs too late in the day because you're afraid those extra carbs will be turned into fat. According to the Jacksonville Fitness Academy, it's a myth that eating carbs at night will make you fat. You should eat carbs after a nighttime run, but you should consider the type of carbs that will fuel recovery and help promote sleep.

Fueling recovery for a nighttime run

According to Self, eating refined carbohydrates at night gets quickly converted to glucose. If you don't need the excess glucose, your body stores it as fat. In other words, eating too many refined carbs at night can eventually lead to weight gain. However, you can opt for unrefined carbs to help fuel your recovery.

One consideration is the intensity and duration of your run. According to Runners Connect, an easy run at a recovery pace won't put a strain on your glycogen stores, so you don't have as much of a demand for carbs if you're eating enough during the day. High-intensity runs, such as tempo runs or runs hitting your VO2 max, will burn more carbohydrates that will need to be replaced.

If your goal is to lose weight, Healthline suggests trying a beet salad, which is rich in nitrates that boost running performance. Watermelon can help you rehydrate after a run, and an omelet with vegetables gives you the protein and healthy carbs for recovery. You can pair carbs like carrots with healthy fats like hummus, or try apples with peanut butter. Try some Greek yogurt with fruit or oatmeal topped with nuts to give you some extra nutrition after your run.

Some carbs help improve sleep

Even if you haven't done a nighttime run, you might notice that certain foods can disrupt your sleep. According to a 2022 article in Frontiers in Public Health, it's the quality of carbohydrates that can influence your sleep. High-quality carbs that are rich in fiber and have a low glycemic index are associated with better sleep quality and a lower incidence of insomnia. Foods with a high glycemic index or that are rich in added sugar, starch, and refined grains can make it difficult to sleep. According to CNN, high-sugar foods can cause night sweats in postmenopausal women.

Granola might be off your list at other times, but it's a good option after a nighttime run that will also help you avoid 2 a.m. hunger pangs (via adidas Runtastic). Just be sure to pair high-sugar granola with some protein, such as yogurt or milk. You can also cut down on the added sugar in granola by baking it on your own. Breakfast cereals are also a good option, but choose a whole-grain cereal without a lot of added sugar.