In my own experience, the post-exercise meal or snack is often neglected. However, what you eat after a workout is important because the body is ready to store energy again, repair muscle and fill up with fluid. Eating a well planned meal or snack can help your body properly recover for the next exercise session and repair damaged muscles, making you stronger over time. There are three important components of the post-exercise meal or snack that I would like to highlight: protein, carbohydrates and fluid. Because of the depth of these topics, I’m going to split up this blog into different posts. This blog provides recommendations about protein.
Why is protein so important after a workout session? It helps build and repair muscle. Additionally, eating protein after exercise may enhance and accelerate glycogen repletion (stay tuned for more on glycogen in the next blog). Proteins are made up of different sequences of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids. Nine of these amino acids are essential and must be consumed in the diet through food. The body can synthesize the remaining 11 amino acids. The biological value of a protein containing food indicates the proportion of essential amino acids it contains in proportion to the body’s requirements. Animal sources of protein tend to have higher biological value than vegetable sources since vegetable sources of protein do not usually contain all essential amino acids. For instance, eggs have a biological value of 94 while rice has a biological value of 83. By consuming high biological value protein foods after exercise muscle synthesis is optimized. Fear not vegetarians and vegans! Vegetable proteins can be wisely paired together to give them high biological value (Again, stay tuned to future blogs for more information on this topic).
Aim for 0.25-0.3 grams protein/kg bodyweight within 30 minutes of completing exercise and then every 3-5 hours over multiple meals. For instance, a 70 kg athlete would need 17-21 grams of protein post workout. The table below lists the protein content of high protein foods. Protein from foods should be your first choice, however, if whole food proteins are not available, then protein supplements such as protein powders are a practical alternative. The amount of protein in protein powder typically ranges from 16-30 grams. Protein supplements provide no additional benefits over protein rich foods like meat, milk, yogurt or eggs. Additionally, protein powder and supplements may be contaminated with illegal substances and should be third-party tested.
|Meat, fish or poultry||75 grams, ½ cup||21 grams|
|Egg||2 large||12 grams|
|Tofu||¾ cup||21 grams|
|Cooked beans or legumes||¾ cup||12 grams|
|Peanut butter||2 tbsp.||7 grams|
|Nuts or seeds||¼ cup||7 grams|
|Cheese||50 grams||12 grams|
|Milk||1 cup||9 grams|
|Cottage cheese||½ cup||15 grams|
|Greek yogurt||½ cup||12 grams|
|Yogurt||¾ cup||8 grams|
I hope after reading this blog post you feel motivated and inspired to optimize your post-workout nutrition. Remember protein is only one component of the optimal post-exercise meal so stay tuned for my next blog.
p.s. don’t forget to follow me on instagram: the.running.dietitian