We all love crossing finish lines – whether in Mario Kart after a perilous drive down Rainbow Road or at the end of a grueling marathon which can leave you feeling higher than your college years. But the Runner’s High doesn’t last forever. Muscle soreness, fatigue, reduced skeletal muscle strength, cellular damage, and a compromise immune system are just a few post-marathon symptoms that can leave even the most experienced runners feeling like a smeared banana on the pavement. The good news? There are several foods you can enjoy guilt-free after a marathon that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the next race. Here are 5 post-marathon foods to maximize your recovery. Dark Chocolate If life were like a box of chocolates, we hope most would be dark chocolate. Apart from being delicious, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants which can help prevent oxidative cellular damage from those pesky free radicals released in abundance during rigorous exercise. Furthermore, dark chocolate is rich in other essential nutrients that are vital towards your post-marathon recovery, such as fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Don’t worry about the sugar too much either – after a marathon, your body needs plenty of sugar to help power your body as it repairs muscle tissue, replenishes muscle glycogens, and regulate your blood sugar levels. Whole Wheat Pasta Yes, that’s right, PASTA. Treat yourself and indulge in the taste of rich, warm carbohydrates. You should be eating a decent portion of carbohydrates within the first 20-30 minutes after your marathon to optimize your recovery. Your body needs carbohydrates after any strenuous exercise marathon to restock your muscles’ glycogen stores (glycogen = stored glucose, the primary fuel your muscles use for energy production and growth). The first 20-30 minutes after exercising is also when your muscles are most receptive to glycogen production and storage. Plus, your body will thank you for the simple sugars carbohydrates provide because your blood sugar levels will likely be very low after a marathon. Carbohydrates will also help you repair muscle damage, which is essential for proper strengthening and conditioning. Grass-fed Beef You order that premium beef. You deserve it. Try ordering that premium cut of steak within the first 3 days after your marathon (if you’re vegetarian or vegan, try beans, legumes, and soy). Much like carbohydrates, your body needs proteins to repair muscle tissue. Just don’t go overboard. For an optimal post-recovery diet, runners should consume carbohydrates and protein at a 4:1 ratio – 4 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 g of protein. If you’re opting for something on the leaner and more environmentally responsible side, small fish such as anchovies and sardines are a good option as is turkey or chicken. Yogurt with Live Active Cultures Yogurts do double duty this time around – while also a great source of protein for the vegetarian or meat-shy runners out there (and we know how important protein is for muscle repair), most yogurts also contain “live active culture” which is another phrase for probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that provide numerous health benefits to their human host, such as keeping bad bugs (think E. coli or salmonella) out of your gut and intestinal tract and supporting the immune system, 70-80% of which is actually located in the gut. Yogurt with live active cultures can help boost your immune system when it needs it most. And most importantly? They’re yummy! Not a fan of yogurt or other fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha? You can find numerous probiotic supplements on the market as well, such as SmartyPants Probiotic Complete. Broccoli OK, maybe this one isn’t “guilt-free” per se, but broccoli is an insanely nutritious vegetable out there with awesome immune-boosting magic. In addition to vitamin A and C which are well established antioxidants with loads of clinical evidence supporting their infection-fighting properties, broccoli also has an additional antioxidant called glutathione. Long story short? With broccoli, you’re keeping your immune system in tip-top-shape while also helping to fight oxidative cellular damage that spikes after strenuous exercise like a marathon. A true two-for-one deal. Since you’ll need loads of calories anyway after your marathon, go ahead and pile on the cheese and bacon too! You’re welcome. We hope to see you hitting the road again soon. Happy trails.