Sports Nutrition – After Exercise
Sports Nutrition – After Exercise
This month’s article will wrap up the nutrition recommendations surrounding physical activity and hit on post-exercise nutrition. Topics covered in this article include the nutrients required for recovery nutrition, meal timing, and meal and snack ideas.
Post-Exercise Recovery Nutrients
Carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fluids are all beneficial following a workout.
Carbohydrates: During long, strenuous bouts of exercise, the body was using carbohydrates as a source of fuel. In last month’s article, we covered the need for exogenous carbs if the workout lasts longer than 60 minutes. These carbohydrates can come from a wide variety of choices, including sports drinks, energy gels, energy bars, and fruit. The purpose of consuming carbs during the workout is to spare the limited reserves of muscle glycogen, which is the body’s form of storing energy in the muscles. One of the requirements for recovery nutrition is to replace the lost glycogen stores by taking in carbs from food and drinks. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the recommendation is to consume 1.0-1.5 grams of carbs per kg of bodyweight. This amounts to about half of the athlete’s weight in pounds for grams of carbs. For example, a 150 pound (75 kg) athlete should take in approximately 75 grams of carbs as soon as the workout is complete.
Protein: Protein provides the necessary building blocks, amino acids, to repair damaged muscle tissue. As a result of a muscle performing actions over and over again, little tears begin to develop. The amino acids repair this tissue so the muscle can recover and be prepared for the next bout of exercise. The current recommendations for protein include taking in at least 15-25 grams as soon as possible after the session.
Fat: Although the body utilizes carbohydrates as the primary fuel source, especially as the intensity increases, fat is also a critical source of fuel to working muscles. Besides there being fat storage below the skin (known as subcutaneous fat), there is also fat stored between muscle fibers, known as intramyocellular lipids. Consuming fats following exercise is also necessary to complete the recovery phase. Although there are no solid recommendations for the amount of fat to consume post-workout, the athlete should still include healthy unsaturated fats from oils, vegetables, and nuts, and avoid foods high in saturated fat and trans fatty acids as part of a healthy diet.
Fluids: During exercise, especially in hot and humid weather, the body is losing large amounts of fluid from sweat. In order to fully recover from a strenuous workout, fluids need to be consumed. Athletes should get into the habit of weighing themselves before and after exercise. Typically, a weight loss will be noticed, and this loss is from fluid losses. The recommendations for fluid following exercise is to drink 16-24 fl oz of water or sports drink for every pound lost during exercise.
Meal Timing Following Exercise
In the carbohydrates and protein sections above, it is mentioned to consume these nutrients “as soon as possible” after the workout. Generally speaking, the recommendation is to take in recovery nutrition of carbs, protein, and fluids within 30-60 minutes following the workout, and then follow up with regular meals within two hours after the session. For most athletes, this recommendation would be sufficient. However, for athletes training for intense competitions, where they will be doing another high-intensity workout in the next 24 hours or less, it is suggested they take in the carb, protein, and fluid recommendations mentioned above within 30-60 minutes afterwards, and then repeat the amounts every two hours for the next six hours.
Recovery Meal and Snack Examples
- Small sandwich with low-fat chocolate milk and a banana
- Recovery sports drink with a protein bar
- Fruit smoothie made with assorted fruits and low-fat milk or yogurt
- Bagel with peanut butter and a banana and fruit juice
- Turkey sandwich with cheese, lettuce and tomato, low-fat yogurt, and fruit juice
- Grilled chicken with rice and vegetables