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After an intense workout, practice, or game, your body is in need of some serious nutritional care. Taking into account a few simple guidelines, obtaining the requisite micro- and macronutrients, along with necessary vitamins, minerals, and water can be easy. 

 

Simple Side

 

Here some simple guidelines are laid out to enhance post-workout recovery. 

 

15-60 minutes after your exercise is when you should begin to refuel your body. 

 

20-24 ounces of fluid per pound of bodyweight lost during exercise should be consumed in that time. 

 

2:1 is the carbs to protein ratio to adhere to in order to jump-start your recovery (2:1 is minimum, 4:1 is maximum, depending on the intensity of the exercise). 

 

The case for chocolate milk!

Dr. Joel M. Stager, a professor of kinesiology at Indiana University, said, "Our study indicates that chocolate milk is a strong alternative to other commercial sports drinks in helping athletes recover from strenuous, energy-depleting exercise. Chocolate milk contains an optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio, which is critical for helping refuel tired muscles after strenuous exercise and can enable athletes to exercise at a high intensity during subsequent workouts." 

 

 

What do I consume after exercise?

 

There’s no one “best” option for what to eat after exercise. Dairy foods such as flavored milk, smoothies or fruit yogurt can be a great option as they can provide carbohydrates, protein, fluid, and electrolytes ticking all of your recovery goals in one handy option. Some other options that you may like to choose include:

  • Lean chicken and salad roll

  • Bowl of muesli with Greek yogurt and berries

  • Fresh fruit salad topped with Greek yogurt

  • Spaghetti with lean beef 

  • Chicken burrito with salad and cheese

  • Small tin of tuna on crackers plus a banana

 

A little planning goes a long way—try packing a recovery snack cooler with any of the following:

  • Yogurt with fruit and cereal

  • Juice with a scoop of whey protein

  • Turkey sandwich with 20 ounces of juice or sports drink

  • Pasta dish with at least a cup of cooked pasta and 3 ounces of your favorite protein

 

Recovery Nutrition Shake Recipes

 

Tropical Smoothie

  • 1 cup skim milk

  • 1 cup ice

  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks (canned in own juice)

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries

  • 1 tsp Berry Burst Metamucil

  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese

 

Orange Cream Smoothie

  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk

  • 1 cup ice

  • 1 packet orange flavored Metamucil

  • 1 scoop Whey Protein Isolate (vanilla)

  • 1 medium peeled orange

  • 8 oz 100% Orange Juice

 

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

  • 1 cup skim milk

  • 1 cup ice

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin pie filling

  • 4 oz low-fat cottage cheese

  • 1 tsp Metamucil (unflavored)

  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

 

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

  • 3 oz. silken tofu

  • 1 to 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

  • Sprinkle of nutmeg

  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

  • 1 to 1/2 tablespoon honey

1. Blend well. 
2. Add extra milk and honey if necessary. 
3. Serve with an additional small sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Shake

  • 1/2 cup chocolate skim milk

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries

  • 1 tsp Metamucil (unflavored)

  • 1 scoop Whey Protein Isolate (chocolate)

 

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

  • 10 oz vanilla soy milk

  • 1 cup low-fat blueberry yogurt

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

  • 1/2 banana

  • 1 tsp Metamucil (unflavored)

 

Chocolate and Banana Smoothie

  • 1 frozen banana

  • 1 cup yogurt

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • Unsweetened chocolate powder or cocoa nibs to taste

  • Honey or rice syrup to taste

1. Blend all ingredients, tasting as the chocolate and honey are added.

 

Antioxidant Berry Boost

  • 1 cup yogurt

  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries

  • 1/4 cup frozen blackberries

  • 1/4 cup frozen strawberries

  • 1/4 cup milk, green tea or apple juice

  • Contents of one vitamin E capsule

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)

1. Blend until smooth, adding additional liquid if needed. 
2. If using apple juice, blend and taste before adding honey to prevent over-sweetening.

 

Morning Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks

  • 1/2 frozen banana

  • 3/4 Greek cup yogurt

  • 2 tablespoon ground flaxseed

  • 1/2 cup orange juice

  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Blend until smooth. 
2. Optional: Add one or two mint leaves

 

Cardio Recovery

6 whole-wheat crackers
1 medium apple (sliced)
2 slices non-fat cheese

Nutrition: 278 Calories / 43g Carbohydrate / 13g Protein / 6g Fat

 

Post-Workout Yogurt Parfait

¼ C nonfat yogurt
½ C whole grain cereal
½ C fresh strawberries (
or other berry)

Nutrition: 270 Calories / 62 g Carbohydrate / 10g Protein / 2g Fat

 

Pita & Hummus

½ whole-wheat pita (large)
2 T hummus
2 T black bean spread

Nutrition: 261 Calories / 46g Carbohydrate / 8g Protein / 5g Fat

 

Oatmeal Protein Powder

½ C cooked steel-cut oats
1 T shaved almonds
2 T protein powder

Nutrition: 287 Calories / 40g Carbohydrate / 16g Protein / 7g Fat 

 

Power Fruit Smoothie

1½ C skim milk (nonfat)
½ C frozen berries 

 

Banana and Peanut Butter on Rice Cake

½ banana (small)
½ T peanut butter
1 multigrain rice cake

Nutrition: 297 Calories / 47g Carbohydrate / 16g Protein / 5g Fat 

 

 

What can go wrong if I get my recovery nutrition wrong?

Inadequate nutrition recovery, especially if training multiple times a day, can result in:

  • Increased fatigue (during training and at work or school)

  • Reduced performance at your next training session or event

  • Suboptimal gains from the session just completed

  • Increased muscle soreness

  • Eventual immune system degeneration

 

 More In-Depth Side

 

From a great article in Exos by Amanda Carlson-Phillips. 

 

SCAN, a dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association, summarizes the goals of recovery nutrition:

  1. Restore fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat. Weigh before and after exercise, then replenish what was lost.

  2. Replace muscle fuel (carbs) utilized during practice or competition.

  3. Provide protein to aid in the repair of damaged muscle tissue and to promote the growth of new tissue.

  4. Begin your recovery nutrition program with a snack or meal within 15 to 60  minutes following practice or competition.

 

 

3 R's of Recovery

 

Refuel

The first "R" of recovery stands for “Refuel,” and it starts with carbohydrates.

 

Carbohydrates provide our bodies and brains with the fuel needed to perform. Our body stores carbohydrates as glycogen to be used during activity. As we exercise, we burn through our glycogen stores. The longer and the more intense the session, the more we use. Glycogen recovery is most important for those athletes who are training multiple times per day, have back-to-back events, and for those athletes who may not be getting the carbohydrates they need throughout the day.

Clyde Williams, Ph.D., of Loughborough University in England, has studied the body’s recovery needs and finds that athletes who train twice a day or compete in sports that involve two or more games, matches, or events during the same day have to recover quickly or risk poor performance.

Glycogen Replenishment
Glycogen, which is stored in the muscles, is the fuel source athletes must restore following strenuous training. Muscle glycogen is the predominant fuel source used during long bouts of aerobic exercise. In fact, aerobic performance is directly related to initial glycogen stores. Once glycogen is depleted, the athlete will feel fatigued and performance will suffer. High-glycemic carbohydrate foods, such as white bread, candy made from dextrose, or maltodextrin supplements, will replenish glycogen stores when consumed immediately following workouts since muscle tissue is spongelike and therefore will rapidly soak up glucose from the high-glycemic carbohydrates.

 

Recovery strategies depend on the specific sport or type of exercise, but whatever the activity, the three essential requirements for successful short-term recovery are: 

  1. Resynthesis of the body’s carbohydrate stores

  2. Rehydration

  3. Rest

 

So how many carbohydrates does it take to recover your fuel stores? Consume between 0.8 and 1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight as quickly as possible after your training session. Take your body weight in pounds and divide by 2.2. This gives your weight in kilograms. If you had a lighter session, then figure you can aim for the lower end (0.8). If you had an extremely hard or long session, go for a higher factor (1.2). Carbohydrates are only one part of the recovery equation, but this is the key component that recovers your fuel stores. 

 

Rebuild

The second "R" in Recovery stands for “Rebuild” and it begins with protein. Protein is the nutrient that drives your body to create and repair damaged muscle tissue. Protein helps you recover following training sessions and competition by aiding the synthesis of muscle protein, a key process for building muscle.

Consuming protein with carbohydrates during recovery from endurance exercise appears to promote recovery best. This is because you're replacing glycogen with the carbs while providing the body with amino acids (building blocks of protein) on signaling pathways that control muscle protein synthesis ( the process of muscle building). It is now generally accepted that protein needs to be included in the post-workout meal or shake.

 

The amount of protein needed in the post-workout period is often overestimated. There are certain levels of protein that are needed to aid in the rebuilding of the muscle. More protein in the post-workout protein shake does not always equal more muscle building. You should include about 0.3 to 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight in your post-workout shake, meal or snack.

 

This protein can come in the form of whole foods, but certain types of proteins have been found to have more beneficial properties than others. Athletes' Performance uses a blend of whey and casein protein. If you're lactose intolerant or have an aversion to dairy products, soy protein seems to work well.

It's important to switch up your proteins on a regular basis in order to prevent any potential intolerance from developing.  There is a lot of promising research on protein synthesis with essential amino acids, in addition to carbohydrate. Six to 9 grams of EAA with about 35 grams of carbohydrates has been shown to significantly stimulate protein synthesis. 

 

To create the perfect post-workout blend, go for your carbs and protein in the form of food, a shake with whey, casein, and/or soy, or in the pure elemental form of essential amino acids.  Many experts agree that the protein needs of an athlete are higher than the average person and ensuring protein as a part of the post-workout meal/snack/supplement will help to meet those needs. Martin Gibala, Ph.D., writing for the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, says, “The added protein acts to 1) repair damage to muscle fibers, 2) promote training-induced adaptations in muscle fibers, and 3) replenish depleted stores of energy.”

 

Keep in mind what recovery means: in addition to glycogen synthesis and performance benefits, a reduction in soreness, promoting quick adaptations to training, and enhancing muscle repair. Most of us spend our time training, not competing. The goal of recovery is to replace our fuel while rebuilding our muscle. So, in regard to recovery nutrition, a small amount of protein in addition to carbs may enhance the body’s adaptation to long-term training. This great combo can come from foods, supplements, and chocolate milk.

 

Rehydrate

The purpose of fluids is simple: restore the fluids (and electrolytes) lost in sweat. How do you know if your fluid tank is low? One way is to monitor the amount and color of your urine. If you are excreting a large amount of light-colored urine, you’re probably hydrated. If it is dark and being produced in smaller amounts, you are probably dehydrated.

 

The second way is to keep track of what you weigh before and after exercise sessions. If you weigh less than you did before exercise, you did not meet your fluid need during that session. The goal is to try to match your pre-training weight or to try to prevent a fluid loss greater than two percent of your body weight.

So, if you weigh 150 pounds, losing three pounds of fluid or more is going to lead to a decrease in your performance. If you weigh more than you did before your workout (after drinking fluids), you may be drinking more than you need. If you do lose weight during your session, it is really important to replace the fluid lost before your next session.

 

What to Drink When

To stay hydrated, drink about 20 ounces of fluid in the hour or so before training, take four to six gulps of fluid (6 ounces) every 15 minutes, and then drink about 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during activity.

Keep in mind that there are factors that can increase the amount of fluids lost. They include exercising at high altitude, working out in hot weather, clothing choice, the amount of sweating (some people sweat more than others), and the nature of your exercise. Athletes who participate in endurance and high-intensity sports may lose more sweat and need to drink more to offset the loss of fluids.

 

Fluid needs should be thought of in two separate categories:

  1. Everyday needs

  2. Performance needs

 

Everyday needs are often overlooked but are incredibly important. Many athletes enter their training sessions dehydrated. Making sure you enter your session hydrated will help to improve overall performance. For everyday needs, aim to drink 0.5 to 1 ounce of fluid for each pound that you weigh. If you weigh 150 pounds, you should be consuming 75 to 100 ounces of fluid per day. (33 ounces = 1 liter)

 

Here are some choices for meeting your everyday fluid requirements:

  • Water (should be your #1 choice)

  • Naturally non-caloric drinks such as brewed unsweetened green, black, and white teas

  • 100 percent fruit juices in moderation (6 ounces = 1 serving)

  • Watery foods (watermelons, grapes, soups, vitamins, potassium)

 

If you are out in the heat and participating in heavy exercise longer than 60 minutes, or are engaged in high-intensity exercise for a shorter period, and if you feel underfueled or dehydrated to start with, choose a sports drink that will provide you with not only fluid, but also electrolytes and carbohydrates.

 

Electrolytes

Fluid is not the only thing lost in sweat. Minerals (electrolytes) such as potassium and sodium are needed to help the body function normally, and they can be easily replaced by the foods and fluids you eat after a workout or an event. Many people link muscle cramping with potassium or may have heard to eat a banana if they are having cramping issues. Recent studies have shown that cramping is often linked to sodium loss. A pound of sweat also contains 400 to 700 milligrams of sodium, although those who have adapted to hot conditions lose less than those who are not acclimated. Regardless, you should take note to see if you are a salty sweater.

 

If after exercise your skin tastes salty, your clothes have a white salt rim to them, or if you seem to be prone to cramping, you need to ensure that you get the sodium you need in the foods you eat and in the sports drink that you consume. During activity, you want a sports drink that has at least 110 milligrams of sodium per 8 ounces. However, specialized formulas with additional sodium, like Gatorade Endurance, may be a better fit for you. Sodium-heavy foods include yogurt, muffins, pizza, spaghetti, pretzels, crackers, and soup, but sprinkling extra salt on your food might achieve the same goal. Even though potassium may not be involved in cramping, the body still loses quite a bit of potassium, which is involved in many bodily functions.

 

“A pound of sweat contains about 80 to 100 milligrams of potassium,” says Nancy Clark, author of the Nancy Clark Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “During two or three hours of hard exercise (expending 1,200 to 1,800 or more calories), a person might lose 300 to 800 milligrams of potassium.” Recovery foods containing potassium include potatoes, yogurt, orange juice, bananas, raisins, pineapple juice, and sports drinks, to name a few.