I likely don’t need to argue the importance of post-workout nutrition for recovery. However, when it comes to what to eat after a workout, there tends to be a bit more confusion and lack of knowledge. Read on to learn how to make the perfect post-workout recovery meal.
Carbohydrate stores can become depleted during exercise as they are used as an energy source. Consuming carbohydrates post-workout helps restore these depleted carbohydrate stores so that they’ll be ready to go for the next training session. Replenishing these depleted carbohydrates will not only allow you to perform at your best, but also decrease risk of injury and illness.
The amount of carbohydrates you need post-workout depends on your bodyweight. Aim for 1.0-1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight. For instance, a 70 kg athlete should aim for 70-85 grams of carbohydrates post-workout.
Eating protein post-workout is not just important for those athletes wanting to build muscle. Protein helps recover muscle damaged during exercise and also plays a role in replenishing carbohydrate stores.
Like carbohydrates, the amount of protein post-workout depends on body weight. Aim for 0.3 grams of protein per kg of body weight. For instance, a 70 kg athlete would aim for 70-85 grams of protein. This protein should come from high quality protein sources such as meat, eggs, dairy products, or soy products.
Fluid lost during exercise should also be replaced post exercise. Fluid guidelines are not as cut and dry as the protein and carbohydrate targets since there is a huge amount of variability in fluid losses between athletes as sweat rates are very individualized. Fluid needs are also different for an athlete at different points depending on the season (hot versus cold weather) and even level of fitness.
The best way to determine the amount of fluids you need is by weighing yourself pre and post-workout to determine your sweat rate and fluid losses. While this may be the most accurate way to rehydrate, it just isn’t realistic for most athletes. A more realistic guideline is going by urine colour. If your urine is dark then you’re likely dehydrated and need more fluids. If it’s completely clear then you’re likely overhydrated. Aim for a light straw colour.
You’ve likely heard of the post-workout window of recovery. The body is most effective at using nutrients immediately post exercise to help with recovery. However, eating within this window is more important for athletes with less than 8 hours until their next training session. That being said, even if you don’t have a training session later that day, I would still aim to consume a recovery meal within 60 minutes of finishing exercise.
Putting it together:
The 70 kg athlete should aim for 70-85 grams of carbohydrates and 20 grams of protein post hard-exercise. There is no need for some special recovery drink or supplement, as this can easily be met through food. Some examples include:
- 1 serving high protein overnight oats + banana
- 2 fried eggs on 2 slices of bread +1 cup chocolate milk
- Speedy recovery smoothie +banana oatmeal muffin
With all the hard work you put into training, don’t ignore your post-workout nutrition. This will help you get the most out of your hard work, stay healthy and perform at your best.
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