After a hard workout, athletes want to do as much as they can to recover. What you eat post-workout not only helps you get the most out of your workout, but also kick starts the recovery process so that you can be prepared for your next workout. When it comes to post-workout nutrition, there are 4 things to focus on.
Replenish glycogen with carbs:
During exercise the body’s storage form of carbs, known as glycogen, is used. Depending on the intensity and length of exercise, they can become depleted. After exercise, the muscles are in a prime state to replenish these depleted carbohydrate stores. In order for this to occur, post-workout nutrition should include carbohydrates. Some carb rich foods include: bread, oatmeal, fruit, pasta, rice.
Repair tissue with protein:
Exercise also causes damage to tissue. This occurs not only after resistance exercise but also after endurance type exercise like running or cycling. To help tissues repair, post-workout nutrition should also include a good quality source of protein. While the amount of protein will vary based on body weight, in general, athletes will need ≈20-30 grams. Some good quality protein rich foods include: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, meat, poultry or fish.
Re-hydrate with fluids and e-lytes:
During exercise, fluid is lost in sweat and through breathing which results in dehydration. The extent to which this occur will vary based on many different factors such as weather or intensity of workout. In order to rehydrate, 150% of the fluid lost during exercise is needed to rehydrate. If a substantial amount of dehydration occurred, sodium should also be consumed in order to re-establish rehydration. This can be achieved by drinking a sports drink post exercise or by including salty food as part of your meal.
Reinforce immune system function:
The final key to post-workout nutrition is including ample fruits and vegetables. These are a rich source of vitamin, minerals, antioxidants and other important compounds for health and performance. Making fruits and vegetables a part of your post exercise can help reinforce immune system function. Aim to include a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. Read more on that here.
The key to post-workout nutrition is to include all 4 of the R’s. Eating 20-30 grams of protein after a long-run isn’t going to do much if you don’t also include carbohydrates. Here are some good examples of post-workout meals that meet these requirements:
- A fruit smoothie made with Greek yogurt and a handful of salty crackers
- A pita stuffed with vegetables and chicken (add mustard if substantial sweating occurred)
- Shrimp stir fruit with rice (add soya sauce if substantial sweating occurred)
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