Best Nutrition for Recovering from Endurance Events

Best Nutrition for Recovering from Endurance Events

Updated: Mar 26, 2024Kalle Kortelainen

According to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), a successful recovery from endurance events involves:

  • Refuelling muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate) stores
  • Replacing fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat
  • Manufacturing new muscle protein, red blood cells and other cellular components as part of the repair and adaptation process
  • Allowing the immune system to handle the damage and challenges caused by the exercise event

While, most athletes and weekend warriors are well aware of the importance of carbohydrate refuelling and rehydrating after long distance running and cycling events, we don't tend to think enough about protein and salt requirements.


"After hours of ingesting sweet endurance gels, bars, bananas and endurance drinks, your mouth is literally sticky and all you want is something salty and tasty."


Besides covering the carbohydrate and hydration needs, a good post long run snack should contain protein, iron, vitamin B12 and salt. It should also be portable, palatable and easy to chew. And let’s be honest, after hours of ingesting sweet endurance gels, bars, bananas and endurance drinks, your mouth is literally sticky and all you want is something salty and tasty, rather than a sweet protein shake.

Without thinking much about the science behind post-race refuelling, many marathon/ultra runners and cyclists love to eat beef jerky or biltong after a long training session because it’s salty, easy to carry around and doesn’t go off. This observation initiated a science study examining whether beef jerky is a viable recovery snack. The study concluded that beef jerky is a sufficient source of protein and amino acids following endurance exercise.

So what exactly are the advantages of having a beef jerky bar after a long run?


Long distance running causes muscle tissue breakdown and inflammation on a cellular level. Early intake of amino acids (within one hour post-event) from good quality protein foods helps to promote protein rebuilding and initiates the recovery phase when muscle breakdown decreases and muscle repair increases, which lasts for about 24 hours. The protein requirement ranges between 10-30g of protein, depending on body size and length/intensity of the session.  Inadequate protein intake hinders the recovery process resulting in prolonged muscle soreness (DOMS for days), fatigue, delayed ability to return to training, and increased injury risk. AIS recommends refuelling with real food rather than protein powders and other sports supplements.

Beef jerky advantage:

  • Beef jerky is high in amino-acid leucine, which stimulates protein synthesis.


Sodium is lost through sweat and endurance athletes typically lose >2% of body mass during training and racing. Insufficient dietary sodium causes muscle cramps, inability to properly hydrate and restore electrolyte balance post-event and it also leads to increased risk of hyponatremia.

Beef jerky advantage:

  • Beef jerky is naturally high in sodium and you won’t have to take a separate salt tablet. 


Iron is a key factor in aerobic capacity and iron deficiency, even without anaemia, can impair endurance performance.

Iron is lost not only through sweat but also via gastrointestinal bleeding and due to haemolysis (red blood cell damage) caused by impact of each foot strike when running. Furthermore, the ability to absorb iron is reduced after endurance event as a result of hormonal regulation. The best way to replace iron in this case is through animal foods as the animal (haem) iron is better absorbed than non-haem iron at the best of times.

Beef jerky advantage:

  • Beef and lamb are two of the richest sources of haem iron. They also contain vitamin B12, which helps preventing anaemia and regulates conversion of food to energy. Both iron and B12 are better absorbed from whole foods rather than vitamin/mineral supplements; and while overdoing it with iron supplements can be toxic, eating too much jerky is not harmful in this regard.
  • Besides, it ‘s always better to get your nutrients from natural whole foods rather than processed foods, which are often low in nutrients and high in various pro-inflammatory additives such as trans-fats, sugar or artificial sweeteners and flavour enhancers, sulphites, nitrites and other nasties.

If health, performance, anti ageing and longevity are on the top of your ‘fitness goals’ list, the best is diet is mainly plant based, with small amounts of good quality animal foods and ‘good fats’, as it is low in calories and high in nutrients. Think fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes with little amounts of organic grass fed meat/poultry/wild fish (80g per serving), eggs, dairy, some nuts and seeds, good quality oils (i.e. olive oil) and none or minimal processed foods and artificial additives.

Chief Meat Bar Facts:

  • Chief Beef Bars are made from air-dried lean grass fed meat with no chemical additives, just fresh herbs and spices and tiny bit of nuts and berries. Air-drying preserves all nutrients unlike cooking and grilling.
  • 3- 14.5g protein
  • 4-1.5 mg Iron
  • 573- 579 mg sodium
  • 1-1.4 μg B12 (51-68% RDI in one bar)!!!
  • Easy to chew and digest as it’s much softer than jerky
  • High bioavailability of Iron and B12
  • Easy to carry around, even when travelling overseas (it’s small and doesn’t need to be refrigerated)



More articles

Comments (0)

There are no comments for this article. Be the first one to leave a message!

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published